Topics: COVID-19 testing; planning the easing of restrictions; contact tracing app; elective surgery; Personal Protective Equipment
For more, we’re joined by Health Minister, Greg Hunt. Minister, thanks for your time again this morning.
Look, we have one of the most rigorous coronavirus testing systems in the world. How is the Government going to broaden that?
So you’re absolutely right. The three things that we need to do – testing, tracing, rapid response. – testing is right at the heart of it. Yesterday we heard that Australia has the most accurate testing regime in the world according to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine – but we want to go further, so that means two things.
Just as Gladys Berejiklian was saying, expanding the range of people who are testing – because fewer are presenting with fewer symptoms which is positive on the one hand. Now, we can focus on hotspots, on health workers, on aged care institutions – all of these different things to be expanding out.
But at the same time, we are making progress in securing additional supplies in a very, very tight global environment. And that means we can, not just broaden, but we can expand the numbers. And that’s a four-week process to have that in place across the country.
Yeah. And that is a really important message isn’t it? Because when all this started we we’re told only if you had a number of symptoms should you be tested – that’s because we didn’t have that many testing kits; it caught us all by surprise.
But now, even if you have a runny nose or a mild cough or something we’re being encouraged to test early. So don’t be afraid to go to your doctor and get tested.
Yeah look, these are very important messages. And the states and territories have come out of yesterday’s National Cabinet with a unified view that we now have the capacity to test more broadly.
And it is an extraordinary thing that out of all the countries in the world, Australia was independently assessed as having the most accurate testing regime. But we think we can do better and we must do better.
And if we do that, what this testing does is it helps any individual who may have the virus, but it also protects everybody else which then leads to our tracing – where we have this extraordinary standing up of public health units. Sleuths around the country that are finding if you, or I, or others had the illness, who have we been in contact with.
The app will build into that, as part of it on a voluntary basis. And then, the rapid response is things such as wastewater testing which can see if there’s a suburb which hasn’t had a case identified but it’s in the wastewater stream we realise we need to focus on that suburb to find the people.
Gee. That is really high-tech sleuthing, isn’t it? So the Prime Minister has said isolation will last for the next four weeks. But in your particular specialty, what about elective surgeries?
There’s been a call for- to relax the rules around IVF, and even going back to the dentist. Will we be able to do that within the next four weeks?
So we’re bringing forward to next week, to the National Cabinet, an assessment of elective surgery – and that will look at IVF amongst other things, elective surgery more generally. And as part of that we’re very hopeful that the two reasons why elective surgery was pulled back to the essential – one, the fear of the hospital system being overwhelmed, well we’re in a very strong position now.
And two, PPE, or masks and gowns and gloves, that’s an increasingly strong position. Now, it’s still an intensely competitive global environment. Manufacturing – South Australia is about to stand up their manufacturing.
We’ve got a small Victorian firm which has become a large Victorian firm with the help of the Army. We have been importing significant amounts of high-quality material. So all of that is giving us the capacity to try to progressively normalise.
We’ve still got a long way to go. The social distancing, the hardest of the elements, is still the most important. But I’m very hopeful that a week from now, we will have some positive news on elective surgery.
Okay. Greg Hunt. Appreciate your time. Thank you.