Date published: 
29 June 2020
Media event date: 
28 June 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Here's the daily report, as of 3pm today 7,686 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Australia. Tragically 104 people have lost their lives to COVID-19. There have been 53 new cases reported in the past 24 hours with no additional deaths. Three of those cases have been in New South Wales and are all people in hotel quarantine; 1 case in Western Australia and, again, a person in hotel quarantine; and 49 new cases in Victoria. There are 11 people in hospital across the country, 1 person in intensive care; 6,993 people have been reported to have recovered from COVID-19.

There have been over 2.3 million test carried out across Australia, and this includes over 18,000 test yesterday in Victoria, and over 40,000 test in Victoria over the past 2 days. I wish to speak about the situation in Victoria. The latest numbers are a number of genuine concern. It's important that Victoria continues to test widely and to rigorously follow up with any contacts, and to ensure people identified as cases and contacts remain in quarantine and isolation until advised otherwise by the state health authorities.

The Commonwealth strongly endorses the testing of all people in hotel quarantine. The Commonwealth supports the widespread testing under way in Victoria, especially in the areas of highest prevalence in Melbourne. As expected, this widespread testing continues to identify further cases, and this is allowing us to identify those who are infected and to follow up their contacts order to move rapidly to contain the outbreak.

A reminder that testing is free for every person in Australia through the Commonwealth-funded GP respiratory clinics, and the state funded fever clinics. Extensive contact tracing is under way across Melbourne. The Commonwealth stands ready to continue to assist in response to any request received from Victoria and to continue the coordination of national resources to assist Victoria as has happened without outbreaks in other parts of the country. It's also important that contact tracing and isolation of known contacts continues to be strongly emphasised and pursued. A reminder that Victoria is offering payments to support people without a sick leave who are required to self-isolate or quarantine.

I also wish to speak about the COVIDSafe app. Over 6.4 million Australians have now downloaded and registered with the COVIDSafe app. As confirmed by Victoria's Chief Health officer, Brett Sutton, state health officials are using the app to supplement their current contact tracing efforts. While many of the contacts identified through the app are people who have also been identified by the state contact tracers — that is, they are people who are known by infected people and so have been named by the infected person.

The app can also identify people that you do not know. It may be someone you have been standing beside on a train for a prolonged period of time; someone who has been sitting beside you on a bus, people that you don't know their names, you don't know their contact details. The app is supplementing the work of our contact tracers in Victoria and across the country. Please be assured that the app is working and is working well. And if you haven't yet downloaded the app, please join the 6.4 million Australians who have already done so, over this weekend.

Finally, a word about personal responsibility. With the situation in Victoria we all need to be vigilant, we all need to continue to do our part to ensure that this outbreak is brought rapidly under control and that we don't experience a resurgence of cases of COVID-19 in other parts of the country. None of us can afford to become complacent. This pandemic is not over.

Unlike the outbreaks we saw related to cruise ships and residential aged care facilities earlier in the pandemic, many of the people who have been infected so far in the outbreaks in Melbourne are well, young people, often with only mild symptoms. You may not get sick or very sick if you become infected with COVID-19, but if you pass the infection onto your parents, or to your grandparents they could become very unwell, they could even die.

We all must take personal responsibility for preventing the ongoing transmission of COVID-19. Please, if you are identified as a contact of someone with COVID-19 you must be tested and you must stay at home, in isolation, and in quarantine until the public health authorities advise you otherwise.

It's essential that we all continue to observe the physical distancing measures, our hand hygiene, our cough and sneeze etiquette, and most importantly of all, if you experience symptoms — no matter how mild — of a respiratory tract infection or a fever, stay at home, arrange to get tested. The symptoms may be mild in 1 person and may be life-threatening in another.

I'm very happy to take any questions.

QUESTION:

Some states are threatening to slap an extra 10 days in quarantine if people refuse testing. Should that be the national standard?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

The Commonwealth supports the testing within hotels as part of the quarantine measures, so we support those decisions which are made by those states.

Do we have any questions on the phone?

QUESTION:

Professor, Tom from the Herald Sun. Thank you very much. I just wanted to ask you about the saliva test that Victoria is rolling out from the Doherty Institute. How does that differ from the testing mechanisms we have? And is that something you're— I'm assuming it will be rolled out across the country? Will be used more broadly than just Victoria?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Yeah. So, we're watching what happens with the saliva testing, and particularly the results which come back from it. This has only just been introduced in Victoria for some of the testing. The testing at the moment is either through the swabs, the throat and nose swabs, which people will be used to over the last few months. The saliva test, people spit into a tube. It may be that the saliva test may be more appropriate for people where swabs are more difficult and that may include young children or very elderly people. So we'll watch and see what happens with the saliva testing over the next few days. The saliva testing, of course, allowing more testing to be carried out across Melbourne at the moment in relationship to the outbreaks. And so we will watch and see.

QUESTION:

Sorry. I'll be quick. I was just going to ask as well, does the saliva test— do those results come back just as quickly? Is it easier to process that data? And is there a limit on how many saliva tests can we do? Do we need a certain amount of equipment, or chemicals to actually do the test? Or is that a pretty easy transition into doing that at a mass level?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

So, my understanding is the capacity to do large numbers of tests using the saliva testing is being built up in our pathology centres, particularly in Victoria at this time. But, as we say, it's only just been introduced. The time to get the results back, my understanding is it's very similar to the swabs which had been carried out previously.

QUESTION:

Professor, yeah this is Patrick Cummins from The Australian newspaper. I was just wondering, does the outbreak in Victoria — presumably it doesn't constitute a so-called second wave of infections — but can you give us an idea of what that would look like in an Australian context? Particularly at a time a second wave which could meaningfully derail the planned state reopening of the economy?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Thanks, Patrick. So, this is not a second wave and we hope that we do not come to the position of having a second wave of infections occurring within Australia. What's been happening in Victoria is exactly what was planned when we have outbreaks occurring across the country, with the immediate increase in the testing, the activation of the contact tracing to identify individuals who have been in contact with infected people, and the very rapid action to get people into isolation and quarantine, and to prevent further transmission from occurring within the community. So this is not a second wave. This is an outbreak occurring, and the response which is occurring is very vigorous and appropriate.

QUESTION:

So, what does a second wave actually look like in an Australian context? So we can just gauge the scales [indistinct]?

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Yeah. So, the term second wave is not well-defined, it's being used very widely and broadly. The second wave in the context of the Spanish flu pandemic, of course, was a wave which went right across the world with further very high rates of infection, and very high rates of mortality occurring and, of course, that's not what we are seeing at this time.

QUESTION: 

Thanks, Professor.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL KIDD:

Thank you.

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