Date published: 
15 April 2020
Media event date: 
15 April 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Well there are, as you know, mixed messages over schools this morning, with the Prime Minister urging parents to send their children back to class and to teachers to keep the gates open.

ALLISON LANGDON:

We're joined now by Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd. Professor, thank you so much for your time this morning. Do you agree with the Prime Minister?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Absolutely. It's fundamental that every child in Australia continues to receive their education as we go through this pandemic, both here in Australia and around the world. The other issue that we know is that transmission between children is very rare and uncommon. But the most important message I think here is for the parents of the children who are going to school, and for the teachers who are doing such a wonderful job educating our kids, that if you have anyone in your home with respiratory symptoms no matter how mild, that you stay at home, that children stay at home, the teachers stay at home, and you get it checked out. You get tested to make sure that this is not COVID-19. What we've learned over the last week or so is that people can have incredibly mild symptoms, just a slight snuffle or slight scratchiness in their throat, and they can still be infected and infectious to other people. And this, of course, has led to some of the outbreaks that we've seen happening across the country.

ALLISON LANGDON:

So just to clarify, you're saying all children should be going back to school term two?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

That's the message from the Prime Minister. What we're seeing in states and territories is the rules and instructions are differing. And so the most important thing, of course, is that every child is continuing to receive their education. In some states or territories, that may be a combination of online and face-to- face. Let's wait and see what each of the state and territories do.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

So for me and for a lot of people, there is confusion over the messaging. Are the states getting it wrong?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

I think each state and territory leader needs to make up their own mind about what they're doing. Clearly, the National Cabinet is coming together and talking about this and many other really important issues which are affecting the health and well-being of the people of Australia. So I think we need- I don't want to pre-empt what the National Cabinet decisions are going to be. But let's wait and see what comes out of that process.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

But I think the thing is, I mean, in Victoria today, for example, there are kids going to school, a million kids who are going to school today or supposed to be going to school, but they're not on school because the State Government says don't and the Prime Minister says do, and so what do parents do? We're stuck in the middle. We just want to protect our kids. We don't know what to do.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Yep. Absolutely. So I think for the parents in Victoria, and I know your viewers are from right across the country, which of course creates some confusion when there are different rules between states and territories. I think for the parents in Victoria today, listen to what the rules are in your state. Follow those, and let's watch and see what happens over the coming few days.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Okay. Professor, we want to talk to you about Tasmania because it's such a worry, this outbreak in the North West. What's the latest there?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

So the public health authorities in Tasmania have acted very swiftly and are investigating what's happened and looking for the causes behind the outbreaks which have occurred in the two hospitals in the north west of Tasmania. What we have seen, of course, is those two hospitals closing down. All of the staff in those hospitals are being isolated in their homes along with their families. And testing occurring to take place to see who may have been infected and contracted COVID-19 and who's clear. We also, of course, have the AUSMAT team, which has moved in to make sure that essential services - health services - are still available to the people in the north west of Tasmania until this is all sorted through.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

That's the big worry, isn't it? That's such a large number of health workers who are in isolation or in quarantine at this point. There's so much concern. I know too, we've received e-mails from health workers in Tassie, they're concerned they don't have enough gear - protective gear - in order to go to work. Can you allay their fears?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Well, the good thing about the access and availability of personal protective equipment, including masks and other equipment, is that over the last week or so, we have had substantial increase in the number of masks and other pieces of equipment that have come into the country, and are being rapidly distributed right around the country to all the states and territories. So, yes, when people do return to work, the personal protective equipment that they need to protect themselves and to protect their patients should be available in sufficient numbers for people to be able to carry out their work safely in health care settings across the country.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Michael, can I just ask you how concerned you are about this outbreak at the Anglicare aged care facility in Sydney? You've now got six staff and four residents testing positive.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Yes, it's very concerning. And obviously each time we see an outbreak occurring in one of our residential aged care facilities we do get extremely worried, because of course, some of our most vulnerable citizens reside in these settings. And we do know that people are over the age of 80 are at particular risk of becoming very seriously unwell if they contract the coronavirus. So each outbreak is a very serious concern. The very important message here again- sorry, I think the very important message here again though is if people who are working in these facilities have even the slightest symptoms, that they must stay at home and they must get tested before returning into the workplace. It's important we're protecting these people.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

The big issue here is you're telling health workers they're okay to go into these facilities and the state- it's not your responsibility but the state authorities are saying it's okay to go into these health facilities. But they're getting the coronavirus from somewhere. And when they're working in these infected wards and these infected hospitals, you can understand their fears and concerns. They have their own families. This has to be a huge priority.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

It absolutely is. Now, of course, our residential aged care facilities are actually one of the safest places to be in the country because they're in lockdown. They're screening their staff and anyone who's coming in, most of the residents are spending much of the time in their own rooms. And so people are being very well protected right across the country. But we do of course have transmission occurring in the community and between family members as well. And so those messages about someone at home is unwell, everyone needs to get tested. Let's make sure that we're doing absolutely everything we can to keep the numbers down. And I have to say, the figures we've seen over the last few days, with only about 50 new cases despite the increases that we're seeing in testing right across the country, do show that the measures are working and they do show the magnificent job that the people of Australia are doing to protect each other.

ALLISON LANGDON:

Yeah, those numbers are encouraging. Professor thanks for your time this morning.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Thank you.

Contact

Departmental media enquiries

Contact for members of the media

news [at] health.gov.au (subject: Media%20enquiry%20-%20News%20item%20ID10903, body: URL - https%3A%2F%2Fwww.health.gov.au%2Fnews%2Fdeputy-chief-medical-officers-interview-on-today-on-15-april-2020)

View contact