Topics: Coronavirus update; flattening the curve; Personal Protective Equipment; Ruby Princess cruise ship
I’m joined now by the Federal Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, from his office in Somerville on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.
Thank you so much for your time, Minister Hunt.
It’s a real pleasure.
More positive signs today that the curve is flattening. How do you keep people at home in the face of some positive news?
Look, it’s very important. What we’re seeing is we’re moving from over 25 to 30 per cent of infection growth on a daily basis down to the low teens just over a week ago, just below 10 per cent.
And now, as a country, through the work on the borders, testing, the best regime in the world, contact tracing, and all of the hard work that Australians are doing magnificently on self-isolation we’re now down at about 5 per cent a day growth in infections.
Much more to go – that’s the message – much more to go. But half of our job is to reduce infections and flatten the curve, and the other half is to boost capacity.
Telehealth for our GPs and our primary care to protect our patients and our magnificent health workers, our work in aged care, and then our work in the hospitals where we’ve brought 57,000 nurses and 30,000 beds into the system through the partnership with the private hospitals – these are the things.
Bringing the curve down which we’re now beginning to see really happening, and that’s only due to the work of Australians and boosting the capacity of the system at the same time.
There’s been great concern as we’ve seen here tonight on our program from the frontline medical workers that, just to do their jobs, that they are putting their lives on the line to save lives they’re possibly at great risk of losing their own.
Can you guarantee that they’ll be given the protection they need to do their job?
I do have very good news on this front. These are genuine heroes, and whether it’s our nurses, our doctors, our pharmacists, our aged-care workers, we’ve already distributed 11 million masks but we’ve just received, over the recent weeks, 30 million masks, and I can release that via you this evening, and that’s replenished the stockpile.
It’s still a global challenge but we will immediately move to make the first 10 million of those available to precisely the heroic health workers you’re talking about over the coming days. More to come, including significant amounts of gowns, gloves, goggles, and so we’re working in a difficult global environment – as well as making masks here in Australia.
We expect, over the coming months to the end of the year, to make up to 200 million masks. So, this is about protecting our population, but above all else, protecting our magnificent health workers.
Yeah. Is it equality that affords the best protection for these healthcare workers? And will it-
Yes, it is.
And will the stockpile remain or will we run out again?
So, one of my most important jobs is to make sure that we are working on the supply lines, both from overseas and within Australia. That for example, the army has moved in to help a small central Victorian firm with the support of the Victorian Government, the Australian Government, to make masks, to do this to a quality which the CSIRO has certified as being surgical grade.
These are critical steps to protect our health workers, because what we don’t want to see here is what we’ve seen happen in some overseas countries. And our health workers are the front line. This news – along with the fact that over the weekend the Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, has made an additional $800 million available for PPE, or personal protective equipment, where our focus is firstly our health workers but that protects them.
And with telehealth, which provides distance and space for patients, it protects our patients. All of these things are coming together to boost the capacity at the same time as we help contain the virus and reduce the spread.
How angry are you, Minister, over the debacle of the Ruby Princess cruise ship? Because it really has been a debacle, hasn’t it?
First and foremost, it’s been a human tragedy. And we know that New South Wales has today called both a criminal and a coronial investigation and I think that was the right thing for them to do.
Whilst the ship was in their care, they are nevertheless doing their best and they’ve raised some very significant questions about the communications from the company in question. I’ll let them proceed with that.
But I do want to say to all of our health workers, to all of the people around the country, our focus is always in terms of the testing, the tracing, following up these cases and protecting the patients. We are now just over 5,600 cases – very importantly, 33 cases in ICU under ventilators, and that’s been stable for a number of days.
So, all of these things are incredibly important, and that’s a number that I follow because these are the most critical cases. And it all comes back to the fact that, if we can test and trace, it doesn’t matter where the source of an infection is, we’re ultimately going to give ourselves the best shot of saving lives along with the social isolation.
Alright, Minister, thank you very much for your time – we appreciate it, we understand how busy you are. Thank you very much for tonight’s update.
Thanks very much, Tara. And I do want to say this to the Australian people – thank you for what you’ve done – you are the ones that have helped reduce this rate of infection.
And it will be a difficult few months but as my 85 year old uncle who lived through the war as a young boy said to my daughter today – there will be better times and we will get through this.
Well, I hope so. We all hope so. Thank you for your time.