Date published: 
10 February 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

JO LAVERTY:

Professor Paul Kelly is the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the Australian Government. Hello, Dr Kelly.

PROFESSOR  PAUL KELLY:

Hello, Jo. Lovely to talk to you again.

JO LAVERTY:

Lovely to speak with you again as well. So you can hear there that there is a pocket of the community who's still really worried about this – what is the risk for the public?

PROFESSOR  PAUL KELLY:

So I can categorically say there is no risk to the public, we have put that message out a lot over the last couple of days, I'm hoping the community's hearing it. When I was interviewed by the NT News on the weekend, I did say and I'll repeat here that if I had children in the Lutheran college close to the site I would have no hesitation in my kids going to school today and throughout the next two weeks. And if I was living next door or was part of a – had a business next door I would have absolutely no hesitation at going and working there without any protection at all.

JO LAVERTY:

I do think that message is getting through, I mean the tone of the text messages that we're getting today are quite different to what we were getting on Friday. But now the quarantine period is now here in the top end, it began yesterday. How does the quarantine period work?

PROFESSOR  PAUL KELLY:

So we're taking a very precautionary approach here, Jo. None of the people that got onto the plane and arrived yesterday into Darwin were sick. They were screened before they left and got on the plane, they were screened twice when they were on the plane. They were screened again on arrival at RAAF Darwin and then again on arrival at the facility. So no, they're all well and that's great news. And I must sort of reiterate how wonderful it is that the NT community has been so generous in welcoming home these people from this difficult situation.

JO LAVERTY:

And in two weeks from now what happens when hopefully everyone's still hale and hearty and the door's open – and then what happens?

PROFESSOR  PAUL KELLY:

So through the next two weeks we'll – they'll be very closely monitored, we have our wonderful AUSMAT team in there looking after, not only keeping people isolated from each other and isolated from the community, but also checking on their welfare through the entire two weeks. Everyone, and this is obviously our hope, remains well. And at the end of that two – week period that's well beyond the time when we think people might get sick with this virus. And so they'll be able to leave and go back to their homes in Australia, wherever that may be.

ADAM STEER:

ABC Radio Darwin, Adam Steer, Jo Laverty with you this morning. It is 8.37, our guest is Professor Paul Kelly. He's the Deputy Federal Chief Medical Officer for Australia. Paul Kelly, what about the staff at the INPEX village – are they allowed to go in and out of the community or is the whole centre locked down?

PROFESSOR  PAUL KELLY:

Good morning, Adam. So there are very careful quarantine elements in place and so firstly, the people that have been returned from China, they'll be staying in that facility throughout the 14-day period. And then they will have set up various zones that people can come in and out of and they would require specific personal protection equipment depending on what their role is within the centre.

Movement will be minimised but of course though there will be people that will need to come in, be clothed properly with gown and gloves and mask and so forth, depending on what they are going to be doing in the facility – for example cleaning – and then when they come out again, they will be very carefully supervised in removing that personal protective equipment. Washing if required and then they'll go on their way.

So, we're very used to having these sort of facilities in operation and this – and so that will be followed, those procedures will be followed.

ADAM STEER:

You spent quite a lot of time up here in Darwin, you've experienced a lot of wet seasons, a lot of mosquitoes around. There was some concern over the weekend that this virus could be spread via mosquito. Is that true or no?

PROFESSOR  PAUL KELLY:

Absolutely not. This is a virus very similar to flu or colds and, yes, in my nine years up in Darwin, I have missed the rain, it is raining here in Canberra today thank goodness and putting out the fires. But certainly it is not spread through water, it is not spread through mosquitoes – it's spread like a cold or flu. So people have to be very close, within one metre, and not be using personal protective equipment to become infected.

ADAM STEER:

Who's in charge of the centre while it's operating there? The workers' village. Is it – is it the AUSMAT people or is it somebody else?

PROFESSOR  PAUL KELLY:

So it's – so, the AUSMAT people have a very specific mission – that's to make sure that the quarantine facility is working as it should and to take care, personal clinical care of all the people that have been returned from Hubei Province. It's very much a combined effort with the Australian Border Force, and the Australian Defence Force, as well as Australian Federal Police and, of course, the local NT authorities.

We've been very closely aligned and talking at least daily with the Acting Chief Health Officer up there, Di Stevens and I spoke to the Health Minister there on the weekend as well - Natasha Fyles. So we're very closely, hand in glove I would say - probably not a good metaphor when you're thinking about the gloves that are being used - but with the NT Government and the federal authorities.

JO LAVERTY:

What's the likelihood of another flight of evacuees coming to Darwin?

PROFESSOR  PAUL KELLY:

Low likelihood at this stage, Jo. There's no active consideration of that at the moment. However, things change rapidly and we've – we will be and are of course following the situation in China very closely, particularly in Hubei Province, and indeed the rest of the world. As of today with the latest figures at 37,000, over 37,000 cases worldwide with over 800 deaths – the vast majority of those, all but 364 cases and all but two deaths are in China. And within China, 72 per cent of those are still in Hubei Province where the plane came from on Saturday night, Sunday morning. So, we're very, very closely monitoring that situation.

JO LAVERTY:

I'd be interested in your thoughts, Dr Kelly, on some of the commentary that's going around that the response to coronavirus is probably disproportionate to what it would be if were coming from the US or some other country, some other western country. What, with all the personal protective gear, that we've got Border Force, and the Police, and the Defence Force on standby, we're quarantining at this level. What's your response to that?

PROFESSOR  PAUL KELLY:

Viruses don't know borders, Jo, and so this would be exactly the same precautions we'd be taking regardless of where it comes from. There's a very disturbing element of xenophobia here, I'd just like to really reiterate the fact that this is not about Chinese people, it's about people in China and anyone who's been in China, in Hubei Province, since – for the last 14 days and anyone who has been in or transited through China, regardless of their nationality are being treated exactly the same in terms of their risk of being infected with this virus.

JO LAVERTY:

Dr Kelly, it's an incredibly busy time and we do appreciate you making time for us this morning on ABC Radio Darwin.

PROFESSOR  PAUL KELLY:

You're most welcome, Jo. Thanks, Adam.

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