Nov 21, 2020
Dan Andrews COVID Press Conference Transcript November 21
Victoria Premier Dan Andrews held a coronavirus update news conference on November 21. He said Victoria will continue on its coronavirus roadmap to reopening in the final stage of restrictions, closer to normality. Read the full transcript here.
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Daniel Andrews: (00:00)
With zero new cases. One Victorian is in the hospital, and that person is not receiving intensive care. We wish them well and a speedy recovery. There are a total now of 3,497,612 test results that have been received since the beginning of the pandemic. That’s 10,530 test results since yesterday. We thank each and every one of those more than 10 and a half thousand Victorians who went and got tested the day prior.
Daniel Andrews: (00:28)
We cannot emphasize this point enough really. There’s nothing more important than going and getting tested as soon as you register any symptoms whatsoever. That’s how we protect you, your family, and every family. And it’s how we keep these numbers incredibly low. So please, any symptoms at all, don’t put it off for a day or two. I might feel better tomorrow. No, if you’ve got symptoms, any symptoms at all, please go and get tested today. 99% of those results are back within 24 hours. And then we can be certain to look after you, to take care of you and those that are closest to you in the event that you are positive.
Daniel Andrews: (01:08)
They are the numbers of the day. They are my testament to the character and the conviction and the amazing job that every single Victorian has done over this year. Each of us playing our part to make sure that we protect public health, that we value and protect this precious thing that we have built.
Daniel Andrews: (01:31)
Now I’m about to make some announcements that are recognition of that amazing effort. A series of announcements that are recognition of this precious thing that we have built. It’s incredibly valuable, but it is fragile. And even though these rules are important changes, this virus has not gone. 23 days of zero cases is not the same as having a vaccine against this wildly infectious virus. We all have to keep playing our part. We all have to keep taking this very, very seriously. Otherwise, as we’ve seen in very recent times, we’ve been reminded, if we needed reminding, this thing can come back and come back quickly.
Daniel Andrews: (02:11)
So what I’m pleased to be able to announce are a number of steps that’ll take us towards that COVID-safe summer. And I’ll start probably where people are most focused, and that is what will Christmas 2020 look like. I can confirm that from 11:59 PM on Sunday, the 13th of December, 30 visitors will be allowed to your home. That’s 30 across the course of a day. That’s not 30 for lunch and 30 for dinner. It’s 30 across the course of the day. Now I know that that will be a large enough number for some families and for others they’ll need to do some juggling. But from the 13th of December, that’s very important for a number of different multi-faith communities.
Daniel Andrews: (02:56)
It’s also very important to acknowledge that Christmas and those end-of-year family get togethers and functions are not just for Christmas Day. They are in that latter part of the year. So 30 people, 30 visitors to your home. Dependents are counted as part of the 30, unless it is a baby under the age of one year. So that is a big step forward. And I don’t know that we could two or three or four months ago ever have really been that confident that we would get to that number. It is a testament to the amazing job that Victorians have done and continue to do. In terms of the office and returning to work, from Monday, the 30th of November, we’ll begin a slow, steady and safe return to work for those who have been working from home. That is to say 25% of staff will be able to be in the office, and it is mainly offices. 75% will still need to work from home. And we will make further announcements over the course of the coming weeks and months, and we’ll slowly build that up to a higher number, of course, than 25%. But we can’t usefully speculate or with any great certainty speculate on when the next jump would be and whether we can ever get anywhere near a hundred percent. But that’ll be welcome news, I know, for many.
Daniel Andrews: (04:15)
It will be up to the employer to make sure that there are no more than 25% of staff working. There will be distance requirements, one per four square meters, all those cleaning protocols, all the things that we’ve become very well acquainted with in our own home, in places we visit, and now in the offices that we’ll be able to return to.
Daniel Andrews: (04:35)
Can I just say the public sector, public service will not be coming back. They will remain working from home so as to create additional space and capacity for the private sector. That’ll allow us to perhaps take a further step later, and I’m sure that will be welcome news to private sector business operators, particularly those who run larger businesses right in the center of Melbourne and all of those who service that workforce: restaurants, cafes, bars, all of those things. That’s an important step.
Daniel Andrews: (05:05)
Now in terms of other announcements, and you’ve got a table with you, I’ll run through this relatively quickly. And then Martin’s got a few things to say about the South Australian border. And then all three of us are happy to take any questions. That’s for the future, so those two announcements are not from midnight tonight. Now I’m going to go through the things that will happen from 11:59 PM tonight.
Daniel Andrews: (05:27)
So from midnight tonight, essentially, 15 visitors will be allowed in your home per day. Again, that’s not 15 for lunch and 15 for dinner. That’s 15 across the course of the day. And I would ask people to take these very, very seriously. What we’ve seen in Adelaide, what we’ve seen all over the world, and certainly here some months ago, is that gatherings in the family home can be the most dangerous. We just need to be very, very careful not to be going out if we’ve got symptoms. Observe these limits. They’re not against you. They’re for you. They’re to keep the place open there so that we can stay safe and stay open. But we’re going from two plus dependents to 15 visitors. That includes dependents but not babies under one year. You can split it, of course, across different events, and they can be from multiple households. So you could have five for lunch and 10 for dinner, but it only works if everyone observes those rules and takes them seriously. So from midnight tonight, 15 visitors to your home. Outdoor gatherings in public spaces such as the beach or a park will increase to 50 people. Masks, which have played a very important part in delivering those low numbers and containing the spread of this virus, we’re making a fundamental change. Masks will be required inside, in all settings inside. They will not be required when you are outside. However, you need to carry the mask with you because you will need to wear the mask outside if you can’t distance. So to give you perhaps a fairly common sense example, if you go to Bunnings and you’re in the store, you wear your mask. If you’re in the car park, you don’t have to wear your mask. But if you’re queuing up for a sausage and you’re with other people, and you are simply not keeping your distance, you’re part of a crowd, you need to put the mask on. Carry the mask with you. Common sense drives this.
Daniel Andrews: (07:26)
If you’re outside in the open air and you believe you can keep your distance from people, then you don’t need to wear it, but carry it with you because those circumstances can change. Catherine and I went for a walk the other morning. We had our masks on. If we’d not been wearing our masks, we turned a corner and there was quite a large group of people walking in front of us. All of a sudden, you’re part of a crowd. This thing spreads rapidly. Common sense is really important. Carry the mask because you never know, even outside, when you might need to wear it. Masks have played a very important part in these low numbers, and we just have to see this through. And part of playing your part is wearing a mask absolutely when you are inside so that you’re not spreading this virus unbeknownst to you.
Daniel Andrews: (08:10)
Moving through some other changes. Hospitality will have a venue cap of 300 patrons with a maximum of 100 people inside. Density requirements of one to four square meters apply indoors for larger venues. But for smaller ones, we’ve been able to come up with an innovative way, moving to one person per two square meters for those smaller venues. That means they’ll be able to have more people inside, but they are capped at a maximum of 50. So we’ll be speaking with industry, whether it’s pubs, hotels, bars, restaurants, all of that sector to make sure that they fully understand these new rules. But they come from feedback and they come from deep engagement with that sector.
Daniel Andrews: (08:52)
Higher education will return to on-campus learning for summer studies. There’ll be a whole range of rules and different processes, COVID-safe planning. But now the higher education sector will be open again for on-campus learning over the summer period.
Daniel Andrews: (09:04)
Gyms will open up further with 150 people in groups of 20, with one person per four square meters. Indoor physical recreation and sport can commence with a hundred people, I’m sorry, 150 people, in groups of 20, one per four square meters. Outdoor sport can commence with 500 people, groups of 50, one per four square meters as well. Large sporting venues such as MSAC, for instance, can be at 25% of their capacity. And again, one person per four square meters. Each of these density requirements are about making sure that we don’t have too many people in a too small a space because we know that that is particularly dangerous. Indoor pools can host 150 people. Outdoor pools can go to 300 people. Skateparks, trampolining centers indoors, they are able to go to 150 people. Again, there’ll be density requirements also. In terms of holidaying, so accommodation providers, they are in line with the rules that apply to your house, given that when you’re away staying there, it is no different to your house. So you can be away with 15 other people, including dependents. And, of course, there’ll be density requirements on the venue providing that accommodation to you.
Daniel Andrews: (10:23)
Faith-based ceremonies, I know this will be very important for many people of faith who have had a very difficult year not being able to come together and worship together. Religious ceremonies can take place indoors with 150 people and outdoors with 300 people. Both settings will have a one to four square meter density requirement as well. Weddings and funerals, both indoors and outdoors, can be 150 people with density requirements. And if it’s a wedding at home, then it’s no different to any other gathering at home. It would be 15 people rather than the larger number. Cinemas and small galleries, they can open to 150 people per space. Larger facilities like the National Gallery of Victoria, for instance, they’ll be able to get to 25% of their space. Drive-in cinemas, they’ll have no patron caps. Community venues, libraries and the like, 150 people inside, 300 people outside. Gaming machine venues will be able to go to 150 people, but every second electronic gaming machine will be turned off so as to keep a distance between patrons. There are a number of other smaller matters. They’re all in the pack that we’ve given you. I won’t go through any more than that. I think they are the main changes.
Daniel Andrews: (11:45)
Just in terms of next steps, I’ll be before you again on the 6th of December to announce further changes, to talk about what further steps we can take as we get closer to that and lock in that COVID-safe summer. So Christmas, 30 people to your house. From tonight, masks inside must be worn. Outside, carry the mask and put it on if you can’t distance. Keep it 1.5 meters from other people. And you can have 15 people to your home over the course of a day. And the other changes but which are much more for industry than for individuals.
Daniel Andrews: (12:23)
The key message is Victorians have done an amazing job and built something that is so, so precious. But it is fragile. And each of us need to play our part. These rules are a reflection of the best public health advice, listening and being driven by the science, being driven by the data, and trying to get people back to as close to normal as possible. But it can only be COVID normal and everything must be COVID safe. So please, having achieved this amazing outcome, we’ve all got to remain vigilant. We’ve all got to keep playing our part. This is exactly what we said we would do two weeks ago and we’ve gone beyond it because-
Daniel Andrews: (13:03)
We said we would do two weeks ago, and we’ve gone beyond it because we’ve had this quite amazing set of numbers, but we all have to work hard to keep these numbers low and to make sure that 2021 is vastly different than 2020. I’ll now throw to Martin, who can update us on South Australian border issues, and then the three of us are happy to take any questions you have.
Martin Foley: (13:31)
Thank you, Premier. So as of midnight last night, if you want to come from South Australia into Victoria, you will require a permit, and that permit is available online from the Services Victoria website. We’ve also reestablished the 70 kilometer bubble for the border communities, reestablishing the same principles and the same rules that had been worked out by both governments over the previous months, and you can use your preexisting permits if you are a South Australian to enter in that bubble arrangement. There are exemptions, a very limited number of exemptions that apply for emergency medical care, providing or receiving emergency services, or if your property cuts across both sides of the border. You will, in those limited circumstances, be exempt from that requirement for a permit. For people from South Australia who are exposed to the South Australian government’s defined high risk sites, you will not be granted a permit. You are actually in South Australia under South Australian government rules also not allowed to be anywhere other than in quarantine, so we would imagine that that would not be a big issue.
Martin Foley: (14:58)
If you come from Metropolitan Adelaide, you will be granted a permit but under conditions, and those conditions require to you providing your travel information, a strong recommendation that you be tested and that you design for us the information how long you got to be in Victoria and contact information whilst you are in Victoria. And then if you’re either transiting through South Australia or from regional South Australia, you will be granted a permit with similar contact information, but not the same strong recommendation regarding testing. This will be monitored at both the airport with flights still coming in from South Australia, whether that be to Madura to Portland or to Melbourne Airport and authorized officers from the Department of Health and Human Services will be enforcing those requirements at the airport.
Martin Foley: (16:03)
In regards to road links, the assistance of both Victoria Police and authorized officers will continue to be applied there. That will be based on still having established checkpoints for a period of time and for random checks in addition to that. In regards to, we’ll continue to monitor the evolving situation in South Australia. We continue to work very closely with our South Australian colleagues, and as those circumstances change, we could expect further changes in this permit system, so I might look at their premier.
Daniel Andrews: (16:46)
We’re all happy to take any questions.
How will the QR code system work. Is there a government program that people have to tap into or every business will have to do their own?
Daniel Andrews: (16:56)
Well, most businesses are running QR codes at the moment. We’re trialing our own product. We’ll have more to say about that quite soon. That really fills gaps where people haven’t been able to set up their own, but we’re very confident that the vast, vast majority of venues who would want to, for instance, take advantage of that one to two square meters for smaller venues to a cap of 50, and therefore with a corresponding requirement to have a QR code, they are well-placed to do that. In fact, they’re doing it now. I think it’s just a secondary or kind of a double check if you like. It’s just one of those things where we’re going a little bit further because they will be arguably more people than would otherwise be allowed in that smaller space, but it’s, Lundy, basically a recognition that for some venues, they simply have no chance to change their indoor footprint.
Daniel Andrews: (17:44)
We don’t want to start counting kitchens and other things as part of their square meterage as well, but this is just a really common sense compromise that comes from very intense work, and I’m very grateful to the public health team who’ve sat down with industry and found a way forward for them, because that’s all about jobs, and it’s all about making sure that those businesses can survive and repair and rebuild.
In deciding not to use an off the shelf QR code, you had previously said that you wanted an end to end system that the QR code links with Victoria’s CRM product, but you’ve also said businesses that currently have a QR code point won’t need to move across to the government QR code. How are you planning to link up, I guess, private QR cards with the government one?
Daniel Andrews: (18:27)
Well, we’re getting close to a fairly detailed IT discussion, but as I understand it, with some very small modifications to code, we can have a situation where all of those QR products can speak to our CRM in that end to end fashion. The other thing too to remember is that, perhaps I should have mentioned this in answering Lundy’s question. There are many, many venues who are using the QR code not just to identify who was in the building but to order, to do all sorts of things that mean there is less movement, less contact between different people.
Daniel Andrews: (18:57)
That is a really good thing, and we wouldn’t want to upset that or make that harder, so I think we can all be confident that we can have all of these different products speaking to our main system and have a product out there ourselves if people want to choose to use that. But each of us I think in our daily lives these last few weeks as people have had that greater freedom of movement, I’ve certainly been very close to … All the different places I’ve been, people have been doing it, and it’s a really important part of keeping those numbers down and making the work of our contact tracers just that little bit easier when we have the inevitable cases and the inevitable outbreaks that’ll come.
Speaker 2: (19:35)
Are QR codes going to be mandatory for all hospitality or just those wanting to operate under the one per two square meters?
Daniel Andrews: (19:41)
Look, I think that’s a matter that we’re working through. You have to keep a record of who was there and when, all of those details. So the QR code is not so much … Well, it is simply a way that you can comply with the broader requirement to have a detailed registry, if you like, a detailed list of everybody who was in your venue and the circumstances they were there, who they were with, all of those sorts of things. Many, many in industry are already doing this, so I’m quite confident that we can have all the kind of tech support and using technology to support our work that we need to do contact tracing in the future and to make sure that we keep these numbers down.
Brett, what sort of protocols will be in place for offices as people return to work? I guess particularly the high-rise towers. What are they going to do to implement to ensure that they’ll stay safe?
Brett Sutton: (20:40)
For towers or for offices?
Probably both. Office towers in particular, but offices more generally.
Brett Sutton: (20:45)
Yeah. There’s obviously been lots of work over many months now to really embed some of the COVID-safe principals in those places. It does relate to hygiene. It does relate to the cleaning that occurs in those settings, but more broadly we’ve prompted everyone to make sure that if they’re unwell, they’re going for testing. We’ve enabled that to take place and for those results to turn around really quickly in the office space. Again, there’s been guidance. It’s been supported by WorkSafe. The COVID-safe principles apply in the workplace equally. They’re not new to most of us. It does relate to, again, excluding anyone who’s unwell, enabling them to stay home when they’re unwell, making sure that hand hygiene is supported as much as possible, soap and water or alcohol based hand gel, and to minimize those opportunities for transmission. So still trying to keep your distance, masks will be in place, so really ensuring that all of those basic principles are adhered to.
Speaker 1: (21:46)
What about public transport, which is obviously going to be the other high risk factor?
Brett Sutton: (21:52)
Yeah. It’s not going to be a huge crush with a 25%, so we’ll have an opportunity to, again, embed some of those practices and the oversight of them. People will need to try and maximize the distance with others who are not part of their normal residence to the extent possible. That’ll be pretty easy at the 25% level. After that point in time, that’s when masks play a significant role. Again, the cleaning that’s been enhanced on public transport will need to be in place, and people will need to be aware that once they’ve touched surfaces held that hand rail, they should also be going through hand hygiene as they get off public transport. So whether you carry a bottle of alcohol based hand gel or go to a bathroom and wash your hands, they’re simple but important things.
Speaker 1: (22:40)
And would you like to see offices stagger their start times for workers, so not everybody’s starting at 9:00 AM?
Brett Sutton: (22:45)
Yeah. I think there’ll be further guidance on that from Department of Transport and PTV, but it’ll be a pretty sensible measure to try and reduce that peak crush on public transport. But we’re not going to hit that for some time yet.
What about communal working spaces, so if someone, for example, rents out a little office space or a desk, and then somebody else from another industry also does that as well? So it’s not an office per se, but it’s individual people renting out desks.
Brett Sutton: (23:18)
Yeah. I’m not sure exactly what the guidance will say. There’ll be specific stuff from Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions on that, and again, supported by WorkSafe, but the general principles apply. You do have an occ health and safety obligation as an employer, and so if there are people who are coming into that space, no matter how it’s used, you have to support it with those COVID-safe principles in place.
Speaker 1: (23:41)
Are you confident? We’re going to get to elimination now?
Brett Sutton: (23:45)
So elimination may or may not be the right word. I think we’re talking about no community transmission. I’m pretty confident we’re there now. We haven’t gotten to that epidemiological threshold of 28 days yet. I’m pretty confident we’re going to get to that 28 days. That said, incursions happen. We’ve seen a big outbreak in South Australia. It could have been much bigger if it hadn’t been picked up at the early stage that it has been. That will be an ongoing risk until there’s really substantial rollout of vaccine across the world, and that is some months away, at least six months, and we’re not going to get full coverage of a vaccination for all of our international arrivals for an even longer period of time. So we just have to be mindful of these things that we’re going to have in place for distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, cough etiquette. They are our insurance policy for any incursion that may happen into the future.
When you think of those scenarios, it’s a long time since we had this amount of freedom. What has changed in terms of thresholds for taking action and so on since we were here last time? I mean, we’ve got lived in knowing a lot more about how this can happen quickly. Does that mean actions will happen more quickly to suppress and so on?
Brett Sutton: (24:59)
Well, clearly we’ve learnt through this whole process that going early and going very robustly is the best measure. When you have weeks and weeks of no transmission, no new cases, you will have every opportunity to see where that first case might arise, and we will wrap a public health response around that immediately and it will be very robust. The stuff that you saw at the tail end of wave two with the contact tracing contacts of contacts and quarantining really hundreds of people for every single case that you have, which is where South Australia is at, 4,500 people quarantined with 25 current cases. It may not be dissimilar. If there are a number of primary contacts and contacts of those contacts, they will all go into quarantine, and again, the capacity that’s been built in the pathology system to turn around results within 24 hours will all be part and parcel of it. The contact tracing improvements and the timeliness of that followup will also make …
Brett Sutton: (26:03)
… pricing improvements and the timeliness of that followup will also mean that we’ll have about 24 hours, not from time of notification to the department to getting close contacts into quarantine, but from time of testing to getting close contacts into quarantine. That is the standard that we’re at at the moment, and that’s what I would expect if we say anything into the future.
The last time we were anywhere near like this, perhaps not even this far, we had a slower postcode rollout of things. So this would be much more accelerated than that.
Brett Sutton: (26:32)
Yeah, this is a different situation to that time between the first wave and second wave. We hadn’t gotten to a point where it looked like there was no community transmission, where we had an opportunity to see a new case arise and it was obvious that it arose. We were still seeing the tail end of that first wave as cases started to pick up in the second wave.
Brett Sutton: (26:54)
So the second wave, in a sense, was hidden in the tail end of that first wave. That made it difficult to see exactly what was happening. It actually was occurring in the same geographical area of Melbourne as well. So that was a challenge. It’s much easier, it’s much more straightforward to have days and days of no transmission to then see if you’ve got a new incursion and then to just absolutely jump on it.
[crosstalk 00:27:18] Oh, sorry. This just one person, they’ve been an active case for a very long time now. Is that unusual? Obviously, without breaching their privacy, is it unusual? Is it a different strain of the virus?
Brett Sutton: (27:30)
No, it’s not a different strain. Every strain is different in the sense that you can get minor mutations, but there are no real new strains circulating around Australia. The prolonged shedding that some people get is pretty rare, but when you’ve had 20,000 cases in Victoria, it’s not unusual that there might be some individuals who do have that prolonged shedding.
Brett Sutton: (27:52)
It usually relates to some immune dysfunction. So whether you’re suffering from a chronic illness that means your immune system isn’t working properly, or you’re on a suppressant medication for your immune system, you can get that prolonged shedding. It’s not known how long that might persist for, but I think, clearly, we’re down to a single case now, and I wouldn’t expect that it will go on forever.
With some of the waste water testing, we’ve had a few instances now where it’s come back with positive results. And to my knowledge, it’s never actually produced an actual positive result in the community. How accurate is it and how helpful is it to us now?
Brett Sutton: (28:34)
We think it’s accurate. But the issue is that people can continue to excrete the virus for some weeks after they’ve recovered. And so when we have a call out for people to get tested because we’ve detected it in sewage, we don’t know if that’s because there’s a new case that’s emerged, who’s active and infectious, or whether someone who has been a case and has recovered, and is still three or four weeks from that recovery has moved into an area.
Brett Sutton: (29:05)
So, someone might’ve gone to Portland from Melbourne, might’ve gone to Banella, might’ve gone from North Altona where we’ve had cases recently, into Altona proper, picked up in the sewage, but those individuals have actually recovered. So the virus has been detected, but perhaps those individuals are no longer infectious, no longer symptomatic.
Brett Sutton: (29:25)
And so when we’re prompting people to get tested, they’re saying, “Well, I’m not symptomatic. I had a cold a month ago, but I’m not in a category of someone with symptoms.” And so we’re not picking up people by virtue of that, but we’re pretty confident in the test. So it’s probably picking up genuine virus, but it may well be picking up people who’ve recovered some time ago.
Do you know how much the outdoor transmission has been throughout the entire pandemic in Victoria?
Brett Sutton: (29:54)
We can’t say definitively. We do know from some studies that the risk indoors is 18 times that of outdoors, in terms of the ability to cause a cluster of cases. It’s pretty unusual for outdoor outbreaks to occur. The Rose Garden at the White House is a famous example. There are some where there’s been singing or shouting or some other exertion where, again, the risk of transmission can occur, but largely they’re in enclosed spaces, more prolonged period of time, people in closer contact. And again, with that singing, speaking, shouting, it increases the risk again.
Do you have any data or have you been able to sort of quantify our outdoor transmission versus indoor transmission in Victoria?
Brett Sutton: (30:38)
Not for our cases. Obviously, we can’t definitively pin down the circumstances where someone might’ve picked up the virus. We’ve got very strong suspicions that the vast majority of our transmission has been within households and within workplaces, so indoor settings.
Brett Sutton: (30:55)
We don’t have many examples of outdoor transmission and where it has been picked up, where there’s been people in contact outdoors, they’ve also been in contact indoors. So, family transmission might’ve occurred at a wedding, but it might’ve occurred later, in an indoor setting. So it’s pretty hard to tease out.
Is there any changes to choirs, especially in the lead-up to Christmas?
Brett Sutton: (31:20)
The choir recommendations, I think, will still apply, but there won’t be a public health direction limiting the numbers. But I can come back to you with the specifics of that.
Do you have any directions on dancing at weddings? Can people sing, dance?
Brett Sutton: (31:36)
I will have to take that on notice as well. Look, I think it’s clearly nightclubs, seated only. That’s because the exertion of dancing and again, the closer movement that occurs, is a high risk of transmission. So the recommendations for weddings would certainly be not to have that as well. Again, whether it’s written into public health directions, I can come back to you on.
Can I ask the premier a few questions?
Daniel Andrews: (32:02)
Regarding the Australian Open, is there any updates or when do you expect decisions will be made about timing?
Daniel Andrews: (32:07)
I can’t give you an update today. All I can say is that this is a very important event, one that we’re working closely with Tennis Australia, and they, in turn, are speaking with their global partners, media partners, sponsors. And when we have an announcement to make, we’ll make it.
Daniel Andrews: (32:21)
The good news, from December the 7th, we’ll have just over 1,100 people coming back to Melbourne each and every week. That number will grow over time. When you put on top of that quarantine effort, the need to have many more than 1,000 people in direct connection with that event, that’s not a simple thing. There is some complexity to that. We’re working through those issues, and when we’re ready to make an announcement, we will.
The New South Wales premier has indicated she’s planning to allocate one third of quarantine spots to international students, skilled migrants, and specialists. And it seems Prime Minister Scott Morrison feels there should be Australians first policy. Would you be considering allocating spots to international students, given how the universities are suffering?
Daniel Andrews: (33:06)
Not in the first phase of the re-introduction of hotel quarantine. At just over 1,100 a week, we think the priority should be getting people who have waited, many of them a long time, to come back home. We want to get them home so they can be with their family over the summer, whether Christmas is a factor or not, but that’s the national cabinet position. That’s the aim. There’ll be a time for us, though, to expand that out. There’ll be a time for us to look at major events, international students, all manner of other people that have got a perfectly valid reason to be here. No one should be surprised by the fact that there is a focus on getting people home. That’s certainly going to be our focus in the first stage, which is 160 per day, so just over 1100 for the week.
Daniel Andrews: (33:56)
That’ll run for a number of weeks before it potentially jumps up to a higher number. We got to set this up properly. We will, and then we can grow it once we’ve got it settled in, if you like, and then there’ll be options around international students and some of the other groups that you mentioned.
Daniel Andrews: (34:12)
Because I think that the total number of people who are permanent residents or Aussie citizens who want to come home, I think the estimates are 30, 35,000 people that are out there. There’ll come a time when there are far less of those, but there’s lots of other people who want to come. Just a matter of giving priority to our people first, if you like, which I think is a perfectly logical thing.
How long do you anticipate the South Australian border will be closed? Do you think both sides will open up at the same time on December 1st?
Daniel Andrews: (34:39)
That would be my aim, and changes to the border, changes to restrictions as they operate in Adelaide and right across the state, that’s a matter for obviously, Premier Marshall, but I think each of us share that broader commitment to have all the borders across Australia open by the end of the year, and December 1 was then was the nominated date.
Elective surgeries back to 100% from tomorrow. Any chance of a pro Christmas blitz to try to get through some of that backlog?
Daniel Andrews: (35:07)
Well, I think the jump to a hundred percent is, in fact, a blitz, if you like. Once you get back to 100%, well then you can really start moving people through that system, dealing with very long wait times. This pandemic has been very challenging for all of us in lots of different ways, and to those people who would’ve had their surgery by now.
Daniel Andrews: (35:26)
And we’ve prided ourselves on doing more surgery than has ever been the case in our state’s history, more patients moving through that system and moving through the system faster. It was not an easy decision to have to cancel elective surgery, and certainly in the back end of category two and all of category three, but we are well-placed and you’ll see in the budget on Tuesday, another record budget for health, because we know how important that is.
Daniel Andrews: (35:48)
And then we’ll just have to methodically work through all of those patients who would have had their surgery if there had not been a global pandemic. We’ll just have to work really hard to make sure that we get back on top of that. The other thing to remember, it’s a long answer to a simple question, but the other thing to remember is that if a patient’s clinical circumstances change, then their treating doctor will assess that and they can move from category three to category two, category two to category one.
Daniel Andrews: (36:16)
So people are well-managed, but it has been a very big disruption to a critically important part of our health system, and we aim to get back and we’ll have to do more. We’ll have to exceed the old 100% in order to catch up, and that’s exactly what we’ll do.
Is there going to be a much longer term play? Now, if you’ve been shut down for six months, you’d have to work at 200% for six months just to make up. So presume you’re looking at the long haul here. It’s not a quick fix.
Daniel Andrews: (36:43)
Yeah, look, it’s very difficult to make predictions on how long it will take to deal with everybody who will have to wait longer because of the one in 100-year event. But it also relates, Grant, to the mix of patients. Some of these procedures are in fact done on the same day. They don’t require lengthy stays in hospital, whereas others, if you’ve got a full joint replacement, that can be, obviously, a much more significant thing.
Daniel Andrews: (37:09)
So we just have to work through all those issues. We’ll have more to say on Tuesday about total funding for health, and then I’m sure the minister will speak many times throughout the course of 2021, marking different milestones as we seek to catch up, but also make sure that it’s not about numbers. This is about individuals getting the care that they need as close to home, as fast as possible. And that’ll be a big part of the budget on Tuesday.
You spoke about the 6th of December, but can I ask what the trigger points are, or is it that date to move towards the COVID normal phase?
Daniel Andrews: (37:39)
Yeah, look, I think it’s important to see this very much as a series of rule changes today that are all about setting us up for a COVID-safe summer. It’s very difficult to know what the rules will look like in March or April next year. We may have a vaccine by then. And it’s very, very difficult to know. So it’s about breaking this down into smaller blocks, if you like.
Daniel Andrews: (37:59)
So two weeks has been something that’s served as well, waiting that two week period before we make changes between rules. That’s why today I’m standing here announcing all the things that we said we would do a fortnight ago, and we’ve been able to go further. On the 6th, so two weeks on, I’ll be here again, and hopefully I’ll be able to make some further changes. I think that will be the last changes this year and we would lock those in.
Daniel Andrews: (38:24)
That gets us through the Christmas period into the early part of the new new year, and then there might be opportunities for us to go further again. We’re not so much providing hard and fast dates and different thresholds. This is a very precious thing that we’ve built. We can go further. That’s what we’ve announced today. I think we’ll be able to go further still in a couple of weeks time, and we’ll make those announcements then.
So that won’t be COVID-normal, but that will be another step towards it?
Daniel Andrews: (38:52)
Yeah. We’ll be getting very close to a long-term set of rules. I don’t want people to think that COVID-normal means this is over. It’s got to be COVID-safe. And I think the …
Daniel Andrews: (39:03)
Means this is over. It’s got to be COVID-safe. And I think the summer period presents us with a good block of time where… There’s lots of evidence about the weather and all these sorts of things, but at the same time, you’ve got a lot of people moving, a lot of typical gatherings that happen every summer. So we have to be on our guard. I want to get to a situation where in the next couple of weeks we can lock in the rules and people will know and have certainty that they are there for the whole summer and that we’d only ever add to them.
Daniel Andrews: (39:33)
Just on Christmas though. Today we are foreshadowing. So from the 13th, 30 people to your home. That’s locked in. That means people can plan and they can do all those very practical things about working out how their end-of-the-year special time with family will look. And the 13th is important, whether it be for the Jewish community and Hanukkah earlier, or the 25th, or the mere fact that not everybody celebrates Christmas, but many of us want to be able to come together and spend time with family and loved ones between the middle of December and the 25th. And indeed the days beyond that.
South Australia’s opposition leader, they’ve called for a Commonwealth-led exploration of alternative hotel arrangements. And they’re asking their Premier to advocate to Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Is that something that you would support as well?
Daniel Andrews: (40:25)
Well, I know that Peter’s written to the PM. I haven’t seen the full text of the letter, but I’m aware of broadly the themes that he raises. Look, those are matters that need to be determined by the National Cabinet. There’s no denying. And I made this point the other day. I don’t know whether it got picked up, but I’ll make it make the point again. We are going to roll out a first class quarantine system. So people who will work exclusively for us and no one else. We will advance contact trace our staff so that we know who they live with, and who they’re likely to spend time with, and what the people that they live with do for a living. So no offense to anybody who might be working in hotel quarantine and lives with someone who works in aged care, but we can’t have that. That would not be a good way to go.
Daniel Andrews: (41:08)
Even with all of those extra steps, even with all of those precautions, there’s never a system. You can never build a system that is zero zero risk, particularly when we see the world on fire. 200,000 cases in the US having breached the 2000 deaths a day a number of days recently. Europe. Many parts of Asia. They are in a far worse position than we all were back in February and March. So you’ll never build something that is a hundred percent risk-free, it’s about managing that risk. We think we’ve got a very good model and I’ll have more to say about the finer details of that model soon. But no doubt, Peter with his letter to the PM, and that be something the Prime Minister will give due consideration to. We’ve got a National Cabinet meeting coming up as part of the new COAG framework up in Canberra in a couple of weeks time. No doubt that’ll be one of the many things that we talk about.
Is it something you support, though?
Daniel Andrews: (42:07)
I support the current arrangement, and the current arrangement is that we put people in hotels. And the prime minister’s made it pretty clear, and there’s no point of contention between us. The notion of home-based quarantine is very, very challenging, very challenging when the world is in the kind of. Hotels are where we’re at at the moment. Whether that’s there for all of next year, whether there might be a change in policy, it’s not for me to be advocating positions to the National Cabinet via a podium like this. And it’s also not for me to put in place novel or Victoria-specific arrangements that might mean that others didn’t have confidence to keep borders open, for instance.
Daniel Andrews: (42:48)
So I might very well want to have a group of people go and do their quarantine at home, but if no other first minister has confidence in that, including the prime minister, then that would mean borders didn’t open. There’d be all sorts of knock-ons from that. You can exceed the National Cabinet threshold, and that’s what we plan to do, but doing something very different, you can’t pretend that that’s a national framework if it’s not consistent with the decisions that National Cabinet’s made.
Journalist 2: (43:12)
Do you anticipate [crosstalk 00:43:13] that universities will be able to have international students back by the start of next year?
Daniel Andrews: (43:19)
Oh, look, that’s going to be very challenging. The academic year starts February, March. That’s very difficult for us to predict that far out. We’ll do everything we can. We know that international education is our biggest export. It’s a very important part of the Victorian economy, creating jobs, setting us up, many other benefits flow from that too. We want to see a resumption, get to that, whatever’s COVID-safe as quickly as we can, but it’s very difficult for us to predict. I think the answer is yes. I think there will be some students. How many they’ll be and exactly when they start and whether the academic year is a normal start or whether it might be starting for international students in a different way, it’s too early for us to say. We are working very closely though with the vice chancellors. We’re working very closely with all of our higher ed partners to try and make sure that we’ve got the best framework possible.
Journalist 3: (44:07)
You said the places for hotel quarantine will prioritize Victorians coming home. Will it be whoever’s been waiting the longest will be first on the list for a place or will it be by circumstance?
Daniel Andrews: (44:18)
Yeah. Look, I think that you’ve got caps and you’ve got arrangements that are, I think it’s much more a matter for the federal government to be determining where flights are coming from. Our job is to process people once they get here. And the very good news is that we’re able to have those planes landing and have those services resume and those arrivals from the seventh. And we think that’s very good, but it does start small, just over 1100 a week. It’ll build over time, but that’s really important just as we prove up the system, as we’re completely doubly triply sure that everything we’ve got in place is working well. I think it’s about 35, 000 people across the board. I’m not sure how many of those are from Victoria. Many Victorians have been coming home, but via other States, since we’ve had our system closed. We’re very grateful to other States who have helped us out with that. And no doubt, there’ll be some other people not just from Victoria who will finish up quarantining with us. That’s the nature of flight patterns. That’s the nature of how airlines work.
Can I just ask, Professor Sutton-
Daniel Andrews: (45:20)
… a follow-up up question, please, just on weddings> the DHHS authorized officer recently wrote to a wedding vendor saying, “Dancing is not mentioned on official COVID information, therefore the venue can have dancing so long as it maintains adherence to its COVID-safe plan,” which is obviously contradictory to what you just mentioned-
Brett Sutton: (45:40)
Well, I said that-
What do you say to sort of clarify?
Brett Sutton: (45:43)
Yeah. Our recommendation is really that it is a high-risk activity. It’s not prohibited. There are a number of things that are not prohibited through public health directions, but we still wouldn’t recommend them taking place. Some people might find that they can dance with a mask, very few people on the dance floor, keep a 1.5 meter distance. That is less of an issue, obviously, than an indoor dance venue with a number of people who are in close proximity.
Journalist 3: (46:16)
Do you anticipate by the start of next year we won’t have to wear masks inside as well?
Brett Sutton: (46:21)
I think we’ll change the settings again for indoors, but it is our insurance policy for whatever new cases might emerge. You don’t want to be in a situation where you suddenly find that hundreds of people have been exposed and people weren’t wearing masks in an indoor setting. We do need to see ourselves get to this 28 day threshold, but it is an insurance policy that is most useful, obviously, when it’s in place before the fact. If you’re introducing it after the fact when transmission has occurred, it’s going to have less value. And through our whole epidemic, the introduction of masks probably decreased transmission by about a quarter. So it’s played a significant role.
Brett Sutton: (47:07)
That has meant, I don’t know exactly, but it has meant that we’ve gotten to this point in time two or three weeks earlier than we might have otherwise, so that’s a real win for us. There are some examples in the United States, North and South Dakota, they’ve basically been anti-mask at a legislative level for some months. They’ve got the highest rates of transmission in the world at the moment. Absolutely overwhelmed health systems. So plays a really significant role, both in terms of managing transmission when it’s very active, but also in that preventive role. If a case is introduced into a setting and people are wearing masks, you really decrease the risk of transmission occurring.
Daniel Andrews: (47:50)
We’ll just finish by, again, thanking the public health team for all the work they gave Minister Foley and all of his team, the work that goes into making these rule changes. This is a very good day for Victoria. I’m very proud of every Victorian who’s playing their part. Very grateful to every Victorian who’s playing their part. We’ve built a precious thing and we need to safeguard it. These rules need to be followed, and they’re not against you. They’re rules for you, for your safety, for economic activity, to get back to work, to be able to connect with the people that you love. All of these freedoms are precious and they have to be preciously safeguarded. By following these rules, we’re really pleased to be able to make these announcements today, and we will be equally pleased to add to them in just a couple of weeks time, hopefully, but it is in the hands of every single Victorian.
Daniel Andrews: (48:39)
If you follow the rules, play your part, most, most importantly, any symptoms, please get tested and get tested today. That’s the key to keeping these numbers down. It’s a really positive day today. We can be optimistic and positive about Christmas and into the new year. A COVID-safe summer. That’s what we’re going to deliver, but we can’t do it on own. Every Victorian has to play a part in that. They have been to this point, and that’s why it’s such a powerful reflection of the conviction, and the character, and the way we’ve looked out for each other. The absolute compassion of our state. We’ve defeated this second wave, but it’s not gone. It is not over. We all need to play a part. Thanks very much, everyone.