Apr 24, 2020
PM Scott Morrison COVID-19 Briefing Australia April 24
Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a press conference for Australia coronavirus today, April 24. He announced new National Cabinet data, and the easing of restrictions. Read the full transcript of his statements right here on Rev.com.
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Good afternoon, we’re going to take you live to Canberra where Prime Minister Scott Morrison is giving an update on coronavirus after National Cabinet met this morning.
Scott Morrison: (00:09)
By motion of condolence for the four police officers who were killed in Melbourne and to pass on their sincere sympathies to their families and to their friends and their fellow serving officers. The motion also more broadly expressed the National Cabinet sympathies and support for the broader police family, police officers serving all around the country and of course their family members for whom this is a devastating reminder of the risks that their serving police officers are in, their families take each and every day. The National Cabinet has had to make many important decisions and in recent weeks and we’re very pleased to receive the recommendation of that motion from the Victorian Premier and all Premiers, Chief Ministers and myself stand together with the Victorian Government as they seek to support those families. And those officers in particular, their fellow serving officers who continue to go through a time of terrible grief.
Scott Morrison: (01:13)
At National Cabinet today, there are a number of quite practical issues as always that we were dealing with and in today’s presentation we’ll be providing you on the weekly update on the now casting modeling, which has been done on the effective rate of transmission of the coronavirus here in Australia, based on the Australian data. Importantly at National Cabinet today, we’re able to note the good progress that has been made. We’re obviously familiar with the data itself, but the good progress that is being made on those core requirements that we are working hard as governments across the country to put in place that will enable our road back by enabling us to be in a position where we can have that confidence to continue to ease restrictions that are in place right across the country.
Scott Morrison: (02:03)
Those areas in particular where it’s good to receive the reports are the expansion of the testing regimes that are being employed in all states and territory. You would have heard from New South Wales earlier today and what they’re achieving there, but this is occurring right around the country, Tasmania, right around the country and this is a very important pillar of how we will be dealing with this virus going forward into the future. We already have one of the most, if not most comprehensive testing regimes in the world and this is a key tool for us going forward. Secondly, we’re making great progress on the industrializing, automating our contact tracing capability. The app will soon be released. There is still some issues we’re working through, [ light in the piece 00:00:02:49] which is to be expected and we’re not too far away now. Earlier in this week as I indicated to you, it received the in-principle support of the National Cabinet and we’ve been taking that through its final stages in recent days.
Scott Morrison: (03:03)
That will be also an important tool for the country as we seek to manage how we live in a COVID safe economy and community into the future and the rapid response to individual outbreaks. We should be aware as a community right across the country that when we take further steps to ease restrictions, of course we will continue to see outbreaks. That is to be expected. What matters is being able to move on them quickly to identify them through both of the methods that I’ve just mentioned, but also as we’ve seen in a very difficult outbreak in Northwest Tasmania and for the resources to come quickly for the further restrictions in those areas to be applied promptly and so we can get on top of those outbreaks as quickly as we possibly can. Dealing with those outbreaks will be one of the things we will have to live with when we’re in a position of having further ease restrictions across the country.
Scott Morrison: (03:59)
On a couple of quite specific issues on the wearing of masks and Brendan Murphy the professor will talk a little bit more about this, but on the wearing of mask, the medical expert panel, we accepted their advice that it is not recommended by the expert panel. That they are necessary to be worn and importantly it’s important to note that the wearing of such a mask does not protect you from an infection, but if you are displaying respiratory symptoms than it is at best, a measure that prevents you transferring it to others. It’s not about protecting you from infection, but that’s why when people were leaving airports and things of that nature, they were wearing it to prevent the transmission.
Scott Morrison: (04:45)
On schools confirmation, and this is in the medical expert advice the HPPCs document being released further today. Confirmation that the four square meter rule and the 1.5 meter distancing between students during classroom activities is not appropriate and not required. I can’t be more clear than that. Their advice can not be more clear than that. The 1.5 meter in classrooms and the four square meter rule is not a requirement of the expert medical advice in classrooms.
Scott Morrison: (05:20)
We agreed also to develop national principles for sport and recreation. Those principles would address these issues at three levels. The first at the elite and professional level, so the major sporting codes, our Olympic sports, training arrangements that sit around, support for those activities by our elite sports people. Secondly, at the community competitive sport level, that is such an important part of our way of life here in Australia and the principles that can help guide decisions by states and territories in the future. And thirdly at the individual passive level of sport and recreation. Activities from everything from whether it’s in the [inaudible 00:06:10] if you’re going surfing or if you’re walking in the local national park or whatever it might happen to be.
Scott Morrison: (06:15)
Those are set of principles that states and territories can draw on in terms of getting some consistency across the country as we move into this next phase. Today, we also agreed national COVID-19 safe workplace principles which will be released. This is all about getting Australians back to work and ensuring that when they go back to work that they and their families can feel safe in going back to work and to ensure they’re important principles in place, there are protocols and procedures that should a COVID case present in a workplace then the rules that people need to follow. The Minister for Industrial Relations has been working closely with the COVID Commission, union representatives and others to ensure we can get very helpful tools in place. That’s what we’re doing at a federal level and that will draw on these national principles that we have agreed today as part of the National Cabinet.
Scott Morrison: (07:10)
On aged care. There was a meeting this evening, a webinar which the Chief Medical Officer and the Minister for Aged Care will be participating in and National Cabinet has continued to stress it’s concern about restrictions that are being put in place in aged care facilities. As I noted earlier this week, beyond the baseline requirements of what National Cabinet has agreed based on the expert medical advice. So we are flagging, I am flagging very clearly at a federal level that should we not see an improvement in this area under the voluntary arrangements that we currently have in place, that the Commonwealth would be moving to require aged care facilities that wish to have an exemption to those national principals-
Scott Morrison: (08:03)
Wish to have an exemption to those national principles, those national arrangements, then they would need to seek authority to do that from the Commonwealth and we would make such a decision in consultation with the relevant state and territory jurisdiction.
Scott Morrison: (08:16)
Now there are quite valid reasons why you would have exemptions, particularly as we’ve seen in Northwest Tasmania at the moment or what we’ve seen in Western Sydney or in other places that is entirely sensible as to why you would have restrictions that are greater than the national baseline in those circumstances. Totally reasonable.
Scott Morrison: (08:35)
But more broadly, having people stuck in their rooms, not being able to be visited by their loved ones or carers and other support people. That’s not okay where… Let’s see how the industry goes with that. We would very much like to keep these things on a basis where aged care facilities are exercising their proper discretion, but we are not going to have these as secret places where people can’t access them. They must.
Scott Morrison: (09:03)
As you know, I initiated the Royal Commission into aged care and we want to make sure that these facilities are open to their loved ones to be able to go and visit and to continue to go and engage with them unless there is a very real and serious medical reason why that would not be necessary. So let’s hope that can be worked out consultatively and cooperatively and that is my hope and expectation.
Scott Morrison: (09:29)
Finally, there is the nowcasting modeling, which the Chief Medical Officer will take you through. And in understanding that modeling some important points were raised. We’ve moved through many phases of this virus.
Scott Morrison: (09:43)
The first phase is what I’d call the export phase. That’s when the virus was first exported, transmitted out of China into many countries around the world and in that first phase, Australia moved very quickly to put in place the restrictions of travel into Australia. And then the excellent work done by particularly the Chinese Australia community here meant that Australia was substantively protected from that first export wave of the virus across the world.
Scott Morrison: (10:12)
The second, where Australia was more significantly impacted is what I’d call the repatriation phase. The repatriation of Australian residents and citizens to Australia as they return from many parts of the world where that initial export of the virus into many of those parts of the world, they became exposed to that and they brought it home to Australia. And we saw many, many internationally acquired cases and more than two thirds at certain level… At certain times of the total number of cases in Australia and that’s why we put in place the quarantine arrangements. That’s why we put the restrictions in place. We responded to that as a national cabinet and you’ve seen the evidence of those measures as we’ve seen the curve flatten and the number of cases be additional each day reduced to the levels you’re now seeing.
Scott Morrison: (11:02)
We are now in that third phase which we have to protect against and that is the community phase. That’s where the virus actually moves from within our own community and that requires particularly different tools, building on the ones that we already have in place. And that is the testing, that is the tracing and that is the rapid response. And in today’s modeling what you’ll see is the difference as you’ve moved through those different phases. The last set of modeling you saw included all of the impact of the international cases in our data and both the Chief Medical Officer and I had flagged on earlier occasions that we can’t become complacent because of the fall in the number of internationally acquired cases, which has been the predominant drop in the number of cases we’ve had in Australia. We now have to be wary against community transmission and so we are dealing with that third wave of the virus.
Scott Morrison: (11:57)
We will also be then working towards decisions that we have to make over the next few weeks. Getting the key data metrics in place as to how we’ll make decisions on further easing of restrictions. We are, though, I confirm seeing states and territories individually waiving various parts of the restrictions they have put in place above the baselines. They’re making those announcements almost on a daily basis. We welcome that whether it’s in schools or in other areas and we can expect to see that happen over the next few weeks.
Scott Morrison: (12:27)
The National Cabinet will meet next Friday again and before I hand over to the Chief Medical Officer, I would note of course that tomorrow is Anzac Day. Now, Anzac Day this year is going to be like none any of us have ever experienced. A time when our normal traditions around Anzac Day will of course be interrupted. But in another way it will be a very special time because I will have the opportunity to reflect on Anzac Day perhaps in ways that we haven’t before. The Light Up The Dawn Initiative tomorrow morning at 6:00 which follows the National Commemorative Service at 5:30 from the War Memorial, which will be telecast around the country is an opportunity for all of us to gather as our nation remembers it’s fallen and its heroes and reflects on the great values that sustain them at other times.
Scott Morrison: (13:23)
It was a hundred years ago when Australians returned from the First World War and on their first Anzac Day in Australia, it was in the middle of the Spanish flu. And so something very similar to what we will face tomorrow as we gather together without the parades. But we do so quietly and commemoratively and I do think it’ll be a very special time.
Scott Morrison: (13:48)
We would ask also because there isn’t the opportunity for so many veterans to get together like they normally would and it’s a very special time in so many ways for them to catch up with mates, which they do often but Anzac Day is special. Let’s remember them tomorrow. Make a post, thank them for their service, let them know they’re all appreciated, much admired, greatly respected and enjoin in the national effort I think for an Anzac Day, which will be one to remember for a very long time. Thank you. Brendan.
Prof. Brendan Murphy: (14:19)
Thanks Prime Minister. So currently the case tally in Australia 6,673 cases. 78 people have unfortunately died from Coronavirus related disease. Fortunately, the number of people in intensive care units is dropping, only 43 at the moment and only 29 people on ventilators. So progressively those numbers have fallen and we know that over 5,000 of the cases have now recovered.
Prof. Brendan Murphy: (14:56)
As I’ll show you later, we’re still continuing the same sort of pattern we’ve seen for the last week with small numbers of cases every day. The Prime Minister pointed out the risk always of new clusters appearing. Victoria has reported a small new cluster this morning. So these will happen and these we have to be incredibly vigilant about as we focus our efforts on suppression, containment over the next few months.
Prof. Brendan Murphy: (15:29)
As the PM already also said, we presented to the National Cabinet today advanced versions of what we’re calling our Pandemic Intelligence Plan and our surveillance plan. Our plan to test extensively and make sure that we can detect any of these clusters that might appear over coming weeks. In particular, National Cabinet was informed today that every single jurisdiction has now… Every state and territory has now broadened their testing criteria from today. Some did it earlier, so that anybody…
Brendan Murphy: (16:02)
… from today. Some did it earlier so that anybody with acute respiratory symptoms, cough, sore throat, runny nose, cold symptoms, flu-like symptoms can get tested. This will significantly expand the population of people tested. We’re pretty confident that most of them will be negative, but this will give us a really broad reach of what we call passive surveillance.
Brendan Murphy: (16:24)
But we’re also looking at a range of active surveillance mechanisms to test even people without symptoms in a range of frontline occupations and a range of what we call sentinel situations, where we sample the population. National cabinet’s very clear that they want to be absolutely confident, before relaxing any measures, that we are in a position in this country to detect any community transmission of any significance.
Brendan Murphy: (16:55)
PM also mentioned the discussion on what we call a nonmedical face mask, the lower quality mask that a lot of people feel the need to wear in the community. We’re saying, again, that they are not recommended. We have very low case numbers in Australia, and these masks often aren’t of particularly good quality. They often provide a false sense of security and make people not practice the social distancing measures that we want. So we are not recommending the general community wear masks. We’ve been saying that consistently through the pandemic.
Brendan Murphy: (17:33)
So I’ll now take you through the modeling presentation, and so this is the usual first slide, showing, as you can see, a pretty steady low number of cases and that very, very satisfying flattening of the curve. As of six AM this morning, only 13 cases reported in the previous 24 hours.
Brendan Murphy: (18:02)
The next slide, please. This is the effective reproduction number using the modeling that we showed last week. So it’s exactly the same methodology, just extended out another week. As you can see, ACT and the Northern Territory aren’t here, because their case numbers are so low that there’s no statistical purpose in showing them. So it should be a mark of pride to not be on this graph, for those states.
Brendan Murphy: (18:34)
But you can see, interestingly, and I’ll show this more in the later slide, there’s a broadening of the error margins for each of these things, particularly in states where there are very low case numbers. That’s to be expected. When you have very, very few cases the error margins extend. So that broadening is exactly what you would expect. But the effective reproduction is the middle of that dark blue line, and you can see that, using the modeling of last week, everyone is below one, even Tasmania, which had this little outbreak in northwest Tasmania. The middle of the dark blue line is just below one.
Brendan Murphy: (19:14)
But I’ll show you later that we are now advancing that modeling to look primarily at those cases that have been transmitted in Australia and trying to exclude the impact of those repatriated cases that the prime minister referred to earlier.
Brendan Murphy: (19:32)
So that’s the modeling on last week’s methodology. We’ll just show the next slide. This is before we come to the current modeling on the new method. This is some early work from our modeling team showing what they would forecast on the data that they’ve got, the case numbers we would get in Australia. This is new science. This is not very reliable science. They’re just developing this, and they’re very keen for me to say that this methodology is still being developed and advanced in their hands. But you can see they predicted this sort of pattern, and you can see from the solid bars that, actually, our case numbers are right at the lower end of what they might have predicted in this model. Have the next slide.
Brendan Murphy: (20:23)
The updated modeling that I’m going to show you now really is changed to account for the new measures we’ve put in place for return travelers. Because we are now quarantining, formerly, every return traveler, the opportunity for a return traveler to infect locals is essentially zero, and I have to say, again, we’re so grateful to the states and territories for organizing this quarantine and grateful for those Australian citizens who have put up with two weeks of quarantine to protect their fellow members of the community. Most of them have done so very graciously. They’re just pleased to be home, in the safest place in the world to be.
Brendan Murphy: (21:12)
So what we’ve done is now change this modeling by removing, progressively, the impact of those return travels, and I’ll show it to you on the next slide. Because we have taken out that impact, we see a slightly different pattern. So I’ll show the next slide now.
Brendan Murphy: (21:33)
Here you can see, because we’ve taken out the impact of return travelers, the error margins are even broader. So it’s quite a broad area, with small case numbers at this most recent time point. Again, ACT and the Northern Territory have no cases, or haven’t had enough cases to show any data on this slide. You can see that, as you take out the impact, progressively, of those return travelers, the lines are a bit more bumpy, and they are getting a bit closer to the one, which is what you’d expect when you’re talking about just those cases that have been transmitted in Australia.
Brendan Murphy: (22:17)
Now, we’re not saying that they’re transmitted from unknown community sources. Many of those cases, and I think all of them in Tasmania, have actually been transmitted from known contacts. But they are still transmitted in Australia, and, taking out the return travelers, you can see that the numbers are a little bit closer to one. Tasmania is slightly over one, but continuing its very good trend, as it gets control of the return of the outbreak in northwest Tasmania.
Brendan Murphy: (22:50)
You can see that, again, with various few cases in some states, you’ve got a very larger margin. But the middle of the blue line, of the dark blue line, in all cases except Tassie, where it’s just over one, is still below one.
Brendan Murphy: (23:04)
So this sort of modeling now, which is dealing only with Australian-acquired cases from now on, is going to be a more reliable and more sensitive way to show our modeling. But what it does tell us is that we are close to one. We’ve got to keep it below one, and we have to not be complacent, a message that we’ve been making time and time again. But we are still in a good place and need to keep a very, very strong vigilance over what we’re doing. Next slide. I think that’s the last one. So I’ll leave it at there. Thanks, PM.
Scott Morrison: (23:44)
Thanks. Thanks, Brendan. Dave, why don’t we start with you, if that’s all right? Or we can start with Michelle, work from the front and work to the back and then start at the back and we’ll work to the front.
Prime Minister, on the question of the app, can you tell us something about the storage of the information?
Speaker 1: (24:02)
The storage of the information and we know who accesses it, but where it’s going to be stored. And if I could be permitted a second question. On the nursing homes, what is the problem here of getting cooperation? Because you sent a very strong message. And is the government still doing spot checks because a lot of families would be worried, not so much about the virus, but whatever else goes on in nursing homes when they’re not visiting so much.
Scott Morrison: (24:37)
Yeah, those checks are continuing, and all of those regulatory arrangements, they’re continuing. And so I want to assure Australians about that, that the qualifications work and the inspections and so on, they of course would continue. But it is important that family members, support people have the opportunity to visit these facilities as well. The reasons why there’s some reluctance I think is something to work through with the sector. And so, if there is a factor here, we’d be keen to understand what it is. But the very clear medical advice that we have is that these visits are quite safe when they’re done in the right circumstances. And it’s very important for the health of the residents that they maintain contact with their loved ones and other support people. This is very good for them, and so that’s why that’s necessary.
Scott Morrison: (25:26)
So, look, my hope is that those matters can be resolved and we can get that cooperation and get it soon. And I’m sure in the webinar this evening there’ll be the opportunity to explore some of those issues. It’s not my inclination to prefer that sort of regulatory approach, but if it’s necessary then we’ll do it. The servers in Australia and it’s using AWS who work with Australia on many, many sensitive issues in terms of Australia’s data management. It’s a nationally encrypted data store. It is illegal. It will be illegal for information to go out of that data store to any other person other than that who for whom the whole thing is designed, and that is to support the health worker in the state to be able to undertake the contact tracing with the data that they access being released by the individual for whom is the subject of the contact tracing.