Aug 24, 2020
Victoria Premier Dan Andrews Press Conference Transcript August 24
Daniel Andrews, the Premier of Victoria, held a press conference on August 24 about the COVID-19 outbreak. Read the full news briefing speech transcript here.
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You guys right to go? Thanks very much for joining us. We have 18,464 confirmed aggregate cases of coronavirus in Victoria. That’s 148 more than our update yesterday. I’m saddened to report that there are now 438 Victorians who have lost their lives as a result of this global pandemic. That’s an increase of eight since yesterday. We send our best wishes, our sympathies, and condolences to each of those eight families. They are comprised of two males in their 70s, four females and one male in their 80s, one female in their 90s. Seven of those eight deaths are linked to aged care outbreaks. There are 617 Victorians in hospital. 35 of those are receiving intensive care. And 19 of those 35 are on a ventilator. A total of 2,119,199 test results have been received, which is an increase of some 13,060 tests on yesterday.
Just to that point, they are, of course, yesterday’s results were Friday, Saturday. Today’s results are Saturday, Sunday. And I think the weather’s probably played a little bit of a part in those lower numbers. If you go back and track recent weekends or weekends across the whole journey, then we often see numbers below those high numbers that we see during the week.
But I would just make the point, please, any Victorian, regardless of where you live, regardless of your circumstances, if you’ve got any symptoms, even very mild symptoms, as soon as they start, you have to come forward and get tested then wait at home for those couple of days until you get the test results back. It’s a really important and powerful thing to do both to make sure that our strategy is ultimately successful and we get past this second wave and we can begin the process of opening up again, rebuilding businesses, rebuilding in so many different ways. But it is also very, very important to make sure we’ve got the most accurate picture, the most accurate picture of what’s going on out there, and that we can put the best possible public health strategy in place.
And finally, the other point, of course, is that that going and getting tested as soon as you get the onset of symptoms, that will drive down further the number of cases, and that will protect not only vulnerable people in the community, but particularly our health heroes, people who are having to treat many patients in hospital, many of whom themselves are becoming sick. And we’re going to speak today in some detail about a very big piece of work that’s been done by a number of experts. Andrew Wilson, the chief medical officer, is here. And in the moment, he’s going to take you through the findings of that very big piece of research. Then Brett will speak to the epidemiology of the day. And then Jenny will speak about some of the strategies that we’ve put in place to keep our health heroes safe.
But each of us can play a part in that. Following the rules, of course, but particularly coming forward and getting tested even if you have the mildest of symptoms. As soon as those symptoms start, coming forward and getting tested is such an important thing to do. And we’re so grateful to everybody who is doing that and would encourage and ask everyone to have that mindset and to come forward and get tested as soon as they start to feel even the mildest of symptoms. There are 4,061 cases of unknown source. That’s an increase of 33. So 33 that have been closed out since yesterday. 475 health care workers are active cases. That includes aged care as well as hospital. That number is coming down and that’s very pleasing, but even one infection amongst our health heroes is a real concern to us. And as I said, we’ll come to that in just a moment.
There are 3,651 active cases across the state. And that number continues to fall also, which is very pleasing. The Metro regional split, as I’ve said many times, these numbers never quite tally because there’s a number that are being further investigated. But there are now 215 cases in Regional Victoria. That’s local government areas that are covered by stage three restrictions. So that number is falling and that’s very pleasing. But it’s very important that every single person, regardless of their postcode, remains vigilant. And that’s why we’re so pleased and proud of all those Victorians, a growing number, and the absolute majority, a very, very significant number of Victorians are doing the right thing. And these numbers fundamentally reflect that.
In terms of aged care, just by way of update, there’s some 2,787 shifts that have been worked by hospital nurses. Again, we thank them for going into a very challenging environment, not the environment that they would normally expect to work in, but they’re doing a fantastic job. And we are very, very proud and grateful to them. In terms of disability facility settings, there are 55 total active cases, of which 42 our amongst staff and 13 amongst residents. Aged care outbreaks, some 1, 530 current active cases. And in terms of outbreaks, there’s some 123 of those that we are currently managing that are active outbreaks. So that task is enormous. There has been some settling, if you like, come to the aged care system and that’s the result of all governments working together, all agencies and providers, all the different players in this industry working together really closely. And of course, I will take the opportunity again just to say the best part of 3000 shifts being worked by hospital nurses. That’s just a fantastic effort. And one that has served us well and will continue to.
So just before I throw to Andrew to speak to this very, very significant piece of research around health workers contracting this virus, I just want to make a couple of comments in relation to the bill that we’ll put into the parliament next week. This is very much like a insurance policy. We certainly hope that we don’t have to draw down on it, we hope that we don’t have to make a claim against it. And I can assure all Victorians, regardless of where they live, regardless of their views on any matter, it doesn’t matter, that’s across the board, across the board, across the whole of the state, these restrictions will be in place for not one day longer than they need to be. And the extension just brings us into line. In fact, still has us, I think, in a preferred position to many other states. Other states are able to extend and extend and extend further. They don’t have any limits.
We, under these arrangements, will simply continue the existing set of tools, if you like, the practical tools that we can draw on based on the best of medical advice. We would be able to extend the state of emergency in four week blocks, and there would need to be fresh advice and a fresh case mounted, and we would have to continue to reaffirm that that was the appropriate thing to do. They’re not the rules. As I said yesterday, I think very clearly, but I’ll make the point again. This is not in relation to curfews, this is not in relation to stage four. These are many of the rules that we have had to become particularly familiar with. And they’re the sorts of rules that will be here potentially for a long time. Keeping your distance, washing your hands, staying in your own home if you’ve got this virus.
I’d love to think that this virus would end on the 13th of next month. It’s not going to. Therefore we need to have those tools, that insurance policy, so that if we have to make a claim against it, if we have to continue, not all, but some of these rules into the back end of this year, next year, well then, no one will do that by choice. We would do it because that’s what the public health experts told us we needed to do. Unless we have a legal framework that sits behind that, then we won’t be able to say to a publican, “You can have 50 people in your pub.” We won’t be able to say to a big, and for the purposes of COVID-19, a dangerous workplace, “You can stay open, but you will need to have a series of rules, a series of plans and processes to make sure that you’re keeping your staff and the community safe.”
All of those things come from the state of emergency. It’ll be in place not a day longer than it needs to be. I think I went to this in quite some detail yesterday, but again, just for the purposes of absolute clarity, it will be extended on advice no more than four weeks at a time. And if it’s only required for two or three or four blocks of four weeks, then that’s the decision that would be made. No more, no less than what we have currently done. But I just, again, want to make the point that they relate in the main. I mean, in fact, almost exclusively. They’re stage three and stage two type of rules, not stage four. That is not a function of any changes we’re making to the law. That is not a function of the Public Health and Wellbeing Act. That is a different set of rules, a different set of arrangements. Because right now in the midst of a second wave, but now on that down slope, they are appropriate rules.
They will not be necessary in the months to come. And that’s why the changes that we foreshadowed yesterday are not … They’re completely separate issues. Ultimately, we are all going to have to have some COVID-19 rules until we get a vaccine. Between now and then, and hopefully that’s a shorter time rather than a longer time, we have to make sure that people who, for instance, test positive stay at home and keep everyone else safe. We have to make sure that we have various rules that are simple, that are logical, and that are working. They will be a feature for months to come. But not the state of disaster provisions, not the curfew and the stage four lockdown. That is about dealing with a second wave. Once we are past that second wave, in order to open up, in order to start the rebuilding process, we’ll still need rules in place. Otherwise, we simply wouldn’t be able to open up.
I hope that’s clarified matters. This is a matter for the parliament. We’ll engage in good faith with all parties and we’ll see what the parliament … How things run in the parliament next week and what outcome the parliament votes for. But that’s ultimately the way our democratic system operates. These are extraordinary times though, and I’d love to think that there were no need for any rules whatsoever and we could go back to normal next week, next month, or the month after that. But until we get a vaccine, there’s going to need to be rules and there’s going to need to be a system and a framework to keep us safe and to allow us to open up. I think the chances of me saying to the chief health officer, “Look, there’s no rules. I haven’t got the power to impose any rules, but let’s open up now. Shall we?” I think the answer to that would be no.
So logic tells you we just need to stay the course on this. And that’s why I’m so proud and so grateful to every single Victorian who is. And anybody who needs any further clarification, I hope that that provides it to them. I now might ask Andrew Wilson, the chief medical officer, to take you through the results of a really big piece of research to try and keep those who care for all of us, our health heroes, as safe as we possibly can from this highly infectious and often tragic virus. Andrew.
Andrew Wilson: (19:33)
Just want to take my mask off, thank you. Thanks, Premier. And thank you everyone. We’d just like to firstly acknowledge all the healthcare workers that put themselves on the front line looking after our patients every day and that we’re doing everything we possibly can to look after their health on a day by day basis. I’d also like to acknowledge the large team of people that worked very hard on this work to try to untangle and decipher what’s been going on in a healthcare worker infection situation in this current pandemic.
Andrew Wilson: (20:06)
So as of the 23rd of August, 2,692 cases of healthcare worker infections have occurred in Victoria. Most of these have occurred in July and August. So there’s been two distinct waves, wave one and wave two. And these are very different. And we’ll take you through how they’re different and the important information that we have been able to find out about that. In wave one, about 20% of the healthcare workers were felt to be infected in that healthcare setting at work. Most of the rest were felt to have been infected when they traveled overseas or were contacts of travelers from overseas. So that was very different to this wave where the majority of cases have occurred at work. So wave one and wave two have been very different. And that’s why this data is very important for us to understand that.
Andrew Wilson: (20:56)
Aged care and disability has also been included in this data. And the majority of cases or well more than half have occurred in aged care settings. So aged care workers and nurses who work in aged care settings are a very important part of this group in this second wave. In hospitals, about 70% of people who are infected are nursing staff, with a much smaller number who are medical staff and other healthcare workers. So the message is that most of the healthcare workers are in aged care, but not in hospitals. 70% of the people who’ve been affected are nursing staff. But we’ve been able to pick up infections in a whole range of different workers. So if we just take that through in more detail, about 70 to 80, sometimes around 70% to 80% of the workers have obtained their infection at work in this second wave.
Andrew Wilson: (21:56)
In terms of different types of things that we’ve learnt from this data, we’ve been working on this with the hospitals where they’ve had outbreaks particularly, and also those aged care facilities, for several weeks. And there’s a lot of things that have already been changed to deal with this infection risk. We know that many of the people in these infections have been occurred in outbreaks where there’s been a number of people infected at one time. And they’ve had contact with other staff members and also with patients in that environment. And they’ve worked in an environment where there’s a high number of people, patients, and other workers who have been infected in the one place at the one time.
Andrew Wilson: (22:37)
In terms of what else we’ve learnt, aged care, there are several features that have predicted these kinds of infections and outbreaks and things that we’ve learnt. Poor infection practice has probably been the main driver of infection. There’s also been issues about aged care workers moving between different facilities as a key driver of infection, but also the environment of contamination sometimes by-
Andrew Wilson: (23:03)
… But also the environment of contamination, sometimes by workers but also by patients. And so, all these things are being targeted in an aged care facility to prevent any further infections. In hospitals, we’ve definitely learned a lot about how these have been happening. That there’s outbreaks that occur in wards, particularly where groups of patients are kept together. So, what we’ve described as cohorting of patients together, and in that environment the infections have spread throughout groups of people, and that’s been something that’s been understood for several weeks and we’ve already been able to work with hospitals on that. They’ve already begun to space out patients, we increased our recommendation for N95 respirators so that staff could use those in those environments. And that was above the level of recommendation that the national guidance gives us, so we acted early on that on the advice of our hospitals that we’re working with who told us that that was what was happening.
Andrew Wilson: (23:59)
We also know that there’s been outbreaks related to how people put PPE on and off, particularly taking it off and also how they wear it and then also when they’re interacting with each other at work. So, there’s a whole series of different things that we’re learning and that we’re acting on to try and prevent infections and also share that information across other hospitals. So, we know that one of our hospitals at the moment has an outbreak amongst the staff. So, we’re able to put all those various hospitals together so that they could learn from each other and spread that information and understanding across the system. So, thank you.
Speaker 1: (24:39)
[inaudible 00:24:39] talk to the numbers of the day. [crosstalk 00:24:42].
Brett Sutton: (24:47)
Thank you, prof. Wilson. This is probably an opportunity to clarify the difference between the chief health officer and the chief medical officer. So, Andrew Wilson’s with Safer Care Victoria and administrative office of Department of Health, and is very much focused on safety and quality in our health settings. Whereas, my position’s a statutory position with the public health powers under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act. So, it’s entirely appropriate that prof. Wilson speaks to the issues of clinical safety and quality in our health services in the broader sense.
Brett Sutton: (25:21)
So, 148 new cases today. Up on yesterday, but again with a seven day trend that is clearly hitting down. I think I expressed my hope that we’d be under 150 next week, last week. And we’re here now, so it is encouraging to see these numbers. They will go up and down. We do have some lower testing numbers that might mean that this number even increases in the next couple of days if people can come forward for testing today and tomorrow. We absolutely want to encourage that. We want to find every single case that’s out there, but these somewhat low numbers might be a reflection of having testing that’s below the 15,000 mark. We’re certainly seeing some stabilization in the number of people who are hospitalized, and I think there’ll be a slow decrease in the number of hospitalized patients with coronavirus, especially as we’re strengthening the care of aged care residents onsite in their homes in those facilities. One of the challenges with healthcare worker infections has been the significant number of aged care patients located in one ward at one time. And so, to the extent that we can support those residents onsite, with the staff surge and the shifts that have supported them in those facilities, we should do. Of course, all of those who require clinical care in an acute health setting are transferred across, but we do need to bear in mind that they bring the infection risk with them, and that it can be a challenge if there’s a significant increase in numbers in a particular hospital with regard to managing that infection risk.
Brett Sutton: (27:12)
But the number on ventilators are now at 19, and the number of current patients in hospital 617. So, a decrease of 12 since yesterday. We are seeing that slow decline. I do hope that we can get under 100 next week and even lower the following week. It is trending in the right direction. Clearly, we’ve got a tail that comprises both sporadic community cases, but also aged and healthcare workers. So, there is that challenging transmission within health settings, within aged care and disability settings that requires this coordinated action plan for those settings, so that we can make sure that we’re driving cases down across the board, including in these complex settings where multiple factors come into play and need to be addressed all at once.
Speaker 2: (28:09)
Can we just ask about that? Does that mean that most of the cases we’ve got now are happening in aged care and healthcare?
Brett Sutton: (28:17)
I don’t know that it’s the majority, but there’s clearly a significant proportion. There’s at least a third that are healthcare staff, so acute and aged care staff, amongst today’s numbers and really everyday’s numbers. So, it’s becoming a greater proportion as community cases decrease, and that’s why we have to have an ongoing focus in those settings to make sure that those numbers come down. Clearly, as community cases come down, we’re going to have fewer staff in aged care, staff in healthcare who might acquire it outside the workplace. Although, for our acute health settings, that’s a minority, it’s about 7%.
Speaker 2: (28:57)
And were we too slow? Because if you’ve got something like four in five of the workers getting it at work, were you too slow to raise standards around PPE and other things?
Brett Sutton: (29:11)
This has been worked on right through, and in the hierarchy of controls, PPE is at the bottom. We need to take a system view that looks at all of the risks, and they’re complex. There are issues of resident and patient flow, of staff movement, of staff cohorting, of the spacing that they do both on the ward but also in the tea room and elsewhere within the hospital. So, all of those things need to be looked at, and we have had to investigate as we’ve gone through to see those individual hospital outbreaks and the issues that are at play. We might not have understood the extent to which ventilation played a role in a particular setting. If that comes to the fore in the data that we’re seeing, then we have to address that and we have to disseminate those lessons as prof. Wilson said.
Speaker 2: (29:56)
Can I just address something there? Because I think it was about three weeks ago, I can’t remember if it was the premiere or you, that you were quite adamant that more than half of the people getting the virus who worked in hospitals were getting it in the community. And that was only about three weeks ago. Today, it’s now 70 or 80% of those people are getting it at work. That’s a big change-
Brett Sutton: (30:17)
Look, I think I’ve always said that I thought the majority of people were getting it at work. For those cases that had been determined, they represented a minority of all of those that were under investigation, but there were a significant number under investigation in the previous two weeks. So, for the cases that had been determined of all of those under investigation, they represented a minority, but as we’ve got the fuller picture and determined for all of those cases, the great majority of cases now are the setting where it’s being picked up. It shouldn’t surprise us-
Speaker 2: (30:50)
[crosstalk 00:30:50] work in hospitals are pretty angry about that, aren’t they? They were saying three or four weeks ago, “We’re getting it at work, why aren’t you moving faster?” How would you address that anger?
Brett Sutton: (30:59)
Look, it’s probably for prof Wilson as much as anyone, but I would say it’s clear that healthcare workers understood that they were acquiring it at work. We had to go through a process of really trying to get the fine detail to know exactly where our actions and priorities should sit, but it doesn’t mean that there haven’t been actions right through in communicating with hospital staff and CEOs about what the issues were. But there are lots of complexities in this space and we did need to really dig into the data to understand what was going on.
Speaker 2: (31:31)
Maybe it’s a question for professor Wilson, but-
Speaker 3: (31:32)
[crosstalk 00:31:32] take it through what we were actually going to do in response, and then we’ll maybe open it up for questions.
Brett Sutton: (31:36)
Yeah, maybe I should bring the-
Speaker 3: (31:44)
Can you just hold on for a few minutes? Yeah? Thanks, Brett. Thank you. So, I just wanted to just take you through in more detail what we will be doing in response to the taskforce data first [inaudible 00:31:52] and obviously we’re very happy to take further questions. So, firstly, can I just say that since the start of the pandemic, we’ve been working very closely with all of our health services to ensure that both our dedicated healthcare workers and patients can be safe from this virus. And it, given it is a novel virus, has been one where we have been evolving our response as the year has progressed in response to changing circumstances and changing evidence. As we saw an increase in healthcare worker infections in July, I asked professor Andrew Wilson to establish a new taskforce. He’s been chairing a PPE taskforce now for a number of months, but to chair a healthcare worker infection prevention and wellbeing task force. Bringing together our infection control experts, health sector unions and professional organizations to look at what we could learn from the outbreaks that we have had at some of our hospitals across Victoria in recent weeks.
Speaker 3: (32:57)
We haven’t been waiting for peer reviewed literature studies. We know that obviously this work is continuing at an international level. And of course, we’re mindful of all of that research, but we wanted to actually draw also upon our local experience to make sure we were ahead of the curve and we’re doing everything possible to keep our healthcare heroes safe. So, I want to thank professor Wilson, the public health team, Safer Care Victoria, the unions and others who’ve been working with us about these issues now for some time. We moved very early to increase the standard around N95 masks, and as professor Wilson has already explained, we went ahead of the national advice in relation to that and have provided that now in high risk environments, whether they’re COVID wards, emergency department, ICU wards, and other places where we have a high risk setting to make sure we could try and reduce the risk of infection to healthcare workers.
Speaker 3: (33:57)
But drawing on the research, and this has taken a period of time to analyze the data because what they’ve needed to do is go through each and every healthcare worker infection file to have a look at what we could learn about that particular case and whether we could make some conclusive findings about where that healthcare worker caught that virus. And that did take some time. We have drawn upon that data, we’ve drawn upon the experience of our health services in terms of what they have done effectively to respond to a particular outbreak, to come through with an action plan for what we’re going to be doing to respond to these issues. So, what we will do is we will firstly share more data on healthcare worker infections to make sure that health services, but also healthcare workers themselves, understand the nature of the risk and what’s going in their workplace and other similar workplaces across our state.
Speaker 3: (34:57)
That information and those learnings will be shared through a number of vehicles. We’ll have online training sessions and information sessions to make sure everyone is across the latest information about what they can do to keep themselves safe. We’ll be releasing numbers around healthcare workers that are being [inaudible 00:35:14] health services, where and to what extent possible, how these healthcare worker cases are occurring. And this will include a breakdown of data by occupational group, and if you look at the data that we’re releasing today, as Andrew Wilson has already mentioned, overwhelmingly they are aged care workers and nurses, but then smaller numbers of other healthcare professionals. In terms of other actions that we’ll be taking, we’ll be looking at additional support to prevent infections from occurring in the first place. This goes to issues around resources and training for infection, prevention and control practices. And we’ve been doing that since the start of the year in our hospitals, but we’re also now, through the cluster arrangements that we’ve got supporting aged care facilities in each geographic location, reaching out to those nursing homes and making sure aged care workers can get the benefit of that support as well. And that will involve us working very closely with the Commonwealth government and the aged care sector around those training needs.
Speaker 3: (36:15)
As I mentioned before, we’ve gone ahead of the national standards in relation to N95 masks in high risk settings, and we’ll continue to review that guidance and that advice about other settings where that might be needed as well. In terms of other measures, we know that continual reinforcement of messages is really important when it comes to the use of PPE. So, we will be deploying PPE spotters in both our hospitals and our aged care settings to ensure that people are putting their PPE on correctly and taking correctly so that they can reduce the risk of catching this virus by virtue of touching an infected mask. For example, other personal protective equipment. We’ll be offering additional targeted training, as I’ve mentioned, for health and aged care staff on the safe use of PPE and looking at further measures in our healthcare services.
Speaker 3: (37:10)
We have also been continuing to reinforce the message that people need to get tested. We will be ensuring that there is regular asymptomatic testing of healthcare workers in COVID wards, making sure that we can make sure that those healthcare workers get the opportunity to be tested as a matter of course. Andrew will of course be happy to speak further to the details of some of this, but there has been a bit said of late around the issue of fit testing. We are looking at the evidence around this, it is a subject of some debate, but we’re going to have a pilot program at Northern Health to look at the fit testing being used there to ensure that healthcare workers have an appropriate N95 mask fitted for their particular needs. But that will not take away from fit checking, which will continue to be utilized across all our health services, making sure the healthcare workers are checking whether the mask that they’re wearing is appropriately sealed on their face to reduce the risk of infection.
Speaker 3: (38:22)
We’re also looking at the infrastructure that we have and the way patients are located in our facilities, and Andrew mentioned before the issue of cohorting of patients and making sure our patients are more spread out across our wards. Not having, say, four patients in a four bed ward, for example. Making sure that we’ve got COVID positive patients, that they are spread more across our infrastructure, across our health services. But we’re also looking at the adequacy of the infrastructure as well. So, for example, we have had cases of healthcare workers cross infect through taking a mask off when they’re sharing a meal together or having a cup of coffee together in the tea room. So, we will be looking at the adequacy of those facilities.
Speaker 3: (39:11)
If the tea room, for example, is just too small for people to be able to have a meal safely, then we will be establishing marquees and other facilities with appropriate heating to make sure healthcare workers can have access to those basic amenities and do those safely. So, this will be a piece of work, working together with our building authority and our health services, just checking all of our amenities in our health services, whether they’re bathroom or tea room facilities, but also working with the aged care sector and the Commonwealth to make sure that, in a similar way, aged care facilities are also checked for the safety of those basic amenities as well.
Speaker 3: (39:48)
Now, the building authority is also undertaking a study around aerosol spray and to make sure that we can actually properly assess what are these changes that we can make to our infrastructure to try and reduce the spread of this virus further. We’re going to be looking at all our COVID safe plans. Safer Care Victoria will be part of that process, making sure that the plans that were put in place at the start of the year by each health service is fit for purpose, given that the science is continually evolving, our learnings both in our state nationally and internationally need to continue to respond to the latest information that we have about this virus.
Speaker 3: (40:29)
And finally, the final action item relates to the promotion of financial incentives to limit worker mobility. And we’ve spoken about this before, we know that particularly in the aged care sector, we’ve had many workers moving across different aged care homes, increasing the risk to their colleagues and to residents in those facilities. Together with the Commonwealth, we’ve worked to try and limit the movement of those workers, but also looking at these issues as well to limit mobility of staff in our health services more broadly. So, we’ll be ensuring that when it comes to medical practitioners, for example, where we have an outbreak in a health service, we’ll be working with them to ensure that they are not financially disadvantaged if they’re prevented from going to a particular health service during the time of that outbreak, but also making sure that we continue to access telehealth programs to limit the need for medical staff to move across sites.
Speaker 3: (41:26)
So, can I just say that this is not the start of the work that we’ve been doing, and this is not the end of the work that we will be doing. We’re eternally grateful to all our healthcare workers for the amazing work that they are doing at this really challenging time. They are our last line of defense. We don’t accept that any healthcare worker infection is inevitable and we will do everything possible to ensure that we can prevent healthcare workers from being infected with this virus. Thank you. We’re very happy now to take your questions around the data, the response, and of course, Brett, around the epidemiology of the day as well. And of course, the Premier, around the state of emergency legislation.
Speaker 2: (42:11)
You mentioned the aged care infection control practices weren’t good enough. How much are you putting that on the spread thorugh aged care problem-
Speaker 3: (42:24)
Yeah. Look, I might ask Andrew to speak to some of the key findings. Thank you.
Andrew Wilson: (42:29)
Thank you. So, the question was-
Speaker 2: (42:33)
You mentioned that poor infection control practices were a major driver, is that through workers going to different places or is that dealing with patients and dealing with a resident and going to another resident’s room? Where have you found the breakdown?
Andrew Wilson: (42:47)
So, I think it’s a combination of things. So, there’s definitely been an element of movement of people around the system, and that’s a part of our sector where there’s a lot of casual staff who move between facilities and we’ve definitely targeted that already. And there’s things being done to reduce movement, but clearly the training, how people use their PPE, you have to be very adherent to the practices we know. So, all of those things have been found to be involved, but also how PPE is being stored. There’s been outbreaks related to how it was being stored. There’s been outbreaks related to even residents potentially contaminating the PPE. So, the environment is really important as well, but it’s a combination of things and I think that’s why the response has to be really complex and comprehensive to cover training, obviously making sure people have the right guidance, making sure they get the right supply of the PPE which is absolutely happening, but then once they have it, being able to use it and being supported. Because a lot of this is about providing ongoing support to the staff so that they understand the PPE and they understand how to use it.
Speaker 2: (43:51)
Are our hospital and aged care centers safe places to work, given we’re seen, what, you said 78%-
Andrew Wilson: (43:58)
Speaker 2: (44:00)
Are they safe places?
Andrew Wilson: (44:01)
They’re safe to work at. There’s a lot of staff in those facilities. So, although we are very concerned about the number of people being infected in those facilities, the great majority of our staff is still going to work and caring for the patients and they’re not getting infected and they’re safe. But clearly, as we know with this virus, it only needs a very small window to get into a place and cause an outbreak. So, one of the key things that’s happening, through Brett’s team and others and the hospitals and health services, is to contain an outbreak when it happens. And so, once there’s a couple of cases identified, those people have been moving around potentially for a few days amongst their colleagues and that’s what we think has been happening. So, it has to be contained, but the hospitals are all working normally, largely. Well, obviously the Peninsula Hospital has a challenge at the moment, but there’s an extensive amount of work being done to contain that.
Speaker 2: (44:51)
Did you find any particular demographic within the healthcare workers that were more prone to getting this virus? Is it lower up the chain, higher up the chain?
Andrew Wilson: (45:00)
So, I think as we said, it’s aged care workers and nurses are by far the most common group there that there’s more of them in our system, they provide much closer care to the patients. So, particularly our nursing staff and aged care staff are touching patients all the time. They’re helping them with showers and going to the bathroom. So, they’re in close contact. A lot of the people in this group are young females because that’s the predominant population that we have in our healthcare setting. But as I said during the presentation, there’s a relatively small number of medical practitioners and a mixture of other staff, but one of the other things to mention with these outbreaks is that other staff who haven’t had anything to do with patients have been part of these outbreaks. So, ward clerks and people who are working at the desk, so that’s why they’ve been so complicated to unravel.
Speaker 2: (45:48)
And what data do you have about these healthcare workers getting sick and then taking it home? What’s the tertiary spread from them?
Andrew Wilson: (45:59)
So, that’s something that we’re definitely having to work out about-
Andrew Wilson: (46:03)
That’s something that we’re definitely having to work out about how, when they’ve taken it home, when they’re furloughed or so or they’re quarantined when they’re unwell, we definitely have evidence that there’s been spread from their partners as well. So particularly as we know in rural areas where hospitals are the main employer in a lot of towns that there’s been family spread where the family member, the partner has transmitted to the healthcare worker in that situation. So that’s why it’s very complex. But there’s definitely been cases where there’s been spread within family groups, which happens in the general community.
Speaker 4: (46:36)
So the healthcare workers are taking it home and spreading it in the community.
Andrew Wilson: (46:38)
And vice versa, their partners may have, or their family may have infected them in certain situations.
Speaker 2: (46:44)
Can I just get a N-95 question? I respect what [inaudible 00:46:49] saying about, it’s a whole range of things. It’s not just the PPE, but they’ve been jumping up and down inside hospitals for months saying, please give us a N-95 masks.
Andrew Wilson: (47:00)
Speaker 2: (47:01)
You’re increasing the amount you’re going to be using from 50,000 to 800,000 per week. Is that a recognition that you should have listened to those workers sooner?
Andrew Wilson: (47:12)
So I think we did. And we have. So we made that recommendation on August the first, so nearly four weeks ago, and that was done very carefully. We set up a PPE task force in April, on the 1st of April, because we were very concerned about PPE strategy about making sure the guidance was consistent. And that’s been something that’s been really important because whenever there’s confusion, that causes a challenge. But I think that’s obviously a very significant increase in what we were using before. And these are respirators that were hardly ever used in the past. So most healthcare workers had never heard of one before the pandemic. So, 50,000 a week is still a lot. And then to go to 800,000, which is what we’re modeling. We’ve been doing that since the start of August. So I think we did respond as quickly as we could. We worked with the… we haven’t waited for this data to come through.
Andrew Wilson: (48:04)
We worked at the hospitals. They told us that their outbreaks in their wards, where there were cohorted patients. So we changed our guidance based on that, which as you can see, caused a significant increase in the mask use. But clearly, that’s something that’s, we have to be really conscious of as we go through about what’s necessary. It’s totally understandable that workers want the best possible PPE. And I would argue, we are delivering that. We’re delivering it above what other states in Australia do and many other places on earth have that situation where don’t use those N-95s in that situation.
Speaker 2: (48:39)
Andrew Wilson: (48:42)
Speaker 2: (48:43)
[inaudible 00:48:43] called in July, I think, for N-95 masks to be made mandatory.
Andrew Wilson: (48:47)
Well, I think so. We obviously between wave one and two had a relatively quiet period of time. So I think that we acted as soon as we had evidence that there were significant outbreaks in the wards at the time.
Speaker 2: (48:58)
This was going out in July.
Andrew Wilson: (49:00)
Speaker 2: (49:01)
Why did it not happen earlier when there were plenty of calls for it from doctors to come in earlier?
Andrew Wilson: (49:07)
Well, to make that decision is very complicated and people have been calling for those N-95s throughout the period in between the waves, but clearly if you could act the minute or the day before you had any infections, you would do it. But I think you needed some evidence to act because, as you can understand, that’s a very significant decision to take, to make a policy that essentially increases the masks from 50,000 to 800,000.
Do you set the rule on aged care workers wearing the mask? Because I don’t think they were obliged to wear them until August the 12th. Is that you? Is it the Federal government? Who sets that?
Andrew Wilson: (49:45)
So the Commonwealth set the guidance for aged care workers. We’re obviously aware of that and our staff have been going into aged care. So we do work with the Commonwealth to make sure that, as best we can, that the guidance is aligned, but it’s the Commonwealth sets that.
So that seemed to be almost two weeks after you mandated it, the Commonwealth mandated it.
Andrew Wilson: (50:02)
Yeah, well, so we were aware of the Commonwealth guidance. So in our hospitals, which is the part that we actually have, our guidance covers, we acted early.
Speaker 5: (50:12)
How do we trust that today’s data is correct? Because going back to what [Raf 01:09:03] said, it was actually August 12th that we were told the majority of nurses were contracting this outside of work. And now it’s the total opposite. So, how do we trust that you’ve got it right?
Andrew Wilson: (50:28)
So I think the data is we’ve got a much better coverage of the number of workers. At the time, that was the data, that was the information that we had, that it was based largely on wave one. As we all know, you can see in your document, that this has been very quick, this wave. It’s happened over a few weeks. It takes more than a few days to untangle the cases because they’re happening at the same time. But that’s what the huge effort has been in the last week or so is to been, to go through all those under investigation cases. And that number is right down. I think Brett would agree that the chances are that those cases that are still under investigation are probably going to tell us a very similar story. But I think, based on what the information was at the time, which was largely that first wave that was felt to be largely people who traveled, which healthcare workers are a part of the community.
Andrew Wilson: (51:22)
We do look at the international data and the number of healthcare workers up until a few weeks ago was actually dropping in terms of the proportion of in the community. Around the world, it’s about 10% of infections. Ours has gone up a little bit lately. We definitely are aware of that, but it was actually dropping down before that. So healthcare workers are part of our community. They have all the same risks as everybody else, but they also have that risk of working in an environment where there’s unwell, sick people. And they are at risk from that, from their workplace.
Speaker 5: (51:53)
And on average, how long was it taking for health care workers cases to be investigated, for that investigation to close?
Andrew Wilson: (51:59)
So I don’t have the specific data on that, but I think it was clearly too long in terms of… And a lot of the work was done, but to catch up, if you like, involved a very significant amount of work. And clearly, as part of this response, there’s going to be a focus on catching up with what we have, which we’ve done. And then those further cases will be investigated very quickly. But yeah, it is a complex process in terms of unraveling it.
Speaker 5: (52:29)
We’ve been in the second wave for a number of months now, not just weeks. Is there any reason why the cases of healthcare workers weren’t prioritized as they should have been? Because we would have gotten this data much sooner if that was the case.
Andrew Wilson: (52:45)
So the second wave largely peaked at the start of August, certainly for these healthcare workers, the priority of the public health team, and I don’t want to speak for Brett in that way, but he can correct me, but it’s really been contact tracing and unraveling those cases to make sure that you can contact all the various people who may have been exposed to the infection and testing. So I think that was clearly and always is the priority is to contact trace and test as many people as quickly as possible. So I think clearly we’ve prioritized the healthcare workers because of the numbers, as Brett said, are representing an increasing proportion of the cases. So contact tracing at that time was, and still is a clear priority.
Speaker 6: (53:31)
In terms of the Hotels For Heroes program, is there any evidence that that actually assisted in stopping family members and other people get the virus once it was found in health care workers or is [inaudible 00:53:42] little?
Andrew Wilson: (53:43)
I’m not aware of any specific evidence that it’s affected things one way or another, but Brett, do you have any-
Brett Sutton: (53:52)
Certainly, every time you take an exposed healthcare worker away from their close contacts, their family members, you’re going to reduce the potential transmission to those close contacts. And there have been people in the Hotels For Heroes program who have gone from being in quarantine to developing illness. And so that’s clearly mitigated the risk of transmission to others by virtue of the fact that they’ve been in those hotels and protected those who might otherwise have been around them.
Speaker 6: (54:24)
Is there a breakdown of how many cases where you can say that it was actually successful, where you did find someone that was at risk in the-
Brett Sutton: (54:30)
I think we could look into it for sure. Yeah. But you know, it is the principle of quarantine that anytime that you can take someone away, isolate them in a space where they might develop illness over that 14 day period is protecting others. That’s the entire principle of quarantine.
Brett, as things stand, are you comfortable that come September 13, we won’t need stage four restrictions anymore?
Brett Sutton: (54:53)
I’m not jumping ahead at this stage to September 13. We’ve said all along, when we get close enough to understand exactly how things are going, we’ll give people as much notice as we possibly can.
So, when do you expect to be in a position to make a decision or that? And I guess, particularly as well, for school holidays.
Brett Sutton: (55:12)
Yeah. I don’t know. We’ll get there when we get there. Everyone wants to know what it’ll look like on the other side and when we’ll get there and what we’ll decide, but we have to take every day as it comes, because, we can be surprised in this space. It’s been good to see things trend as we have expected, but the tail is tricky of this epidemic curve. And there’s a lot of complexity around those last cases, whether they’ll be mystery cases, whether they’ll be in complex work settings, whether they’ll be very difficult to shift. But I think we’re headed in the right direction.
Speaker 6: (55:55)
Can I ask Professor-
Speaker 2: (55:56)
[crosstalk 00:55:56] ask a follow-up question again.
Speaker 6: (55:56)
Speaker 2: (55:56)
Do you need the state of emergency powers so you can do your job?
Brett Sutton: (55:59)
Certainly for public health directions and a lot of the things that we might regard as a bit routine and almost a normal part of life, isolating unwell individuals, quarantining their close contacts, quarantining maritime crew who arrive on our shores, international arrivals when that was relevant in Victoria, they are all things that could only be declared under the state of emergency. So yes, those powers would be lost if the state of emergency were not in place.
Brett Sutton: (56:33)
But as the Premier has pointed out, the specific restrictions at any point in time, are a part of public health directions that are made, but they are not the same as the state of emergency. The state of emergency is the enabling legislation that allows a specific public health direction to be made. But I wouldn’t make it if it weren’t required and I need to make the case to the minister every time there’s an extension of the state of emergency and the minister acquits that decision making through parliament in terms of reporting back. So yeah, there are some things that couldn’t otherwise be possible in terms of really important public health powers, unless there were a state of emergency in play.
Speaker 2: (57:23)
Could you every four weeks speak to a parliamentary committee about why you think you need to keep doing things like that? How much is that a drain? Or is that something you should do?
Brett Sutton: (57:33)
Oh, no. I think it’s made in terms of the case that I make to the minister every four weeks that goes through a process of legal review. It’s checked against-
Speaker 2: (57:42)
I guess I’m asking if you’d be willing to go through that in a parliamentary process as well, because clearly some of the upper house MPs would like to have more oversight of the continuation. Would you be willing to be part of that parliamentary process?
Brett Sutton: (57:54)
Oh, look, I think that’s for parliament to speak to. It’s not for me to chime in on.
Speaker 5: (57:58)
Do you think it be back to a face-to-face learning for students in term four?
Brett Sutton: (58:02)
I hope so. I really do hope so. We’re going in the right direction for that to occur. Usual caveats apply. If we’re continuing on this trajectory, if people are doing the right thing, and if we can find every case and stick to the rules, then we’re headed absolutely in the right direction for face-to-face learning at some point during term four. I think it will be staggered in terms of seeing how it can work. But I absolutely hope we get there.
Speaker 5: (58:30)
Can I ask Professor Wilson a question just on the study? One of the other causes identified was contact between health care workers in areas like tea break rooms contributing to the spread. When did you first identify that?
Andrew Wilson: (58:46)
I think that’s always been known and suspected and I work at a hospital and so does my wife and my friends. So we talk amongst ourselves and the hospitals have a lot of knowledge about this. So we haven’t waited to get all the data. We need to do it clearly and for transparency so people understand it across our sector. But I think that’s been known that particularly in a hospital, which is a complex environment with lots of people moving around, that the places where people congregate are definitely places where there’s been transmission in terms of understanding. So we’ve seen cases where people share lifts to work. They congregate in tea rooms, talk to each other in ward rounds. In my hospital, we had someone who interviewed someone in a job interview was a contact, a group of people. We do ward rounds in a room where we talk about all the patients, all of those people were contacts potentially. So it’s an environment where there’s lots of people moving around and interacting with each other. And so patients are part of that, but obviously you start your colleagues as well.
Speaker 5: (59:46)
And when did you move to limit the interaction, particularly in tea rooms with disclosed wards that you’re talking about.
Andrew Wilson: (59:52)
So I think that’s been done all the way through the pandemic. And certainly one of the things we’ve done is really moved towards a model of telehealth. So in terms of interacting with patients, but also how we all have our meetings. So just like all of you, we have meetings in ward rounds and so forth. They’ve all been largely moved to being virtual over the period of time. The intensification of the focus has clearly been in the last month and a half, two months, where people have been really pushing the idea about tea rooms. But clearly we can’t be too complacent on this because whatever we say, people have to carry it through. And that’s the idea of those PPE spotters and other things coming in where people are like hall monitors, if you like it, are going to make sure that people are protecting themselves and their colleagues.
Speaker 5: (01:00:40)
Professor [Saddam 01:00:41] has said on numerous occasions with the hotel quarantine program, one of the issues was security guards sitting around and mingling in tea and break rooms. I guess, would it have been more appropriate to, particularly in a hospital where it is a high risk environment, to limit that movement much sooner?
Andrew Wilson: (01:01:02)
Speaker 5: (01:01:02)
Because it was an issue in other settings.
Andrew Wilson: (01:01:04)
Yeah, so I don’t think it wasn’t being limited. I think it has been. It’s just a matter of the message that we put out. We’re taking the opportunity of putting this package together to really focus on this and make sure we’re getting it right. Those things can always improve. But I think that messaging has always been out there, particularly when we moved to having masks. So once we moved towards everyone in public facing environment, again, that’s above the level of national guidance that we had all hospital staff wearing masks. That was part of that program, was that people needed to keep them on when they are interacting with each other.
Speaker 2: (01:01:39)
Just with the N-95 mask, how many people in that healthcare system are getting fit tests for those masks?
Andrew Wilson: (01:01:44)
So, the fit testing, we’ve always recommended fit testing. So that’s always been a recommendation from our program and that’s in line with the work cover and national guidance. So different groups of people have been having it done over the last few months, including groups from different hospitals. But it’s just what we’re talking about now is actually doing a targeted program to go to a particular hospital where there’s a high risk of healthcare worker infections. They’ve had a number of advice before and working on how feasible it is. So it’s really a focus on doing it, but we’ve always recommended it.
Speaker 7: (01:02:26)
Can we just ask the Premier. Premier, it doesn’t look like you’re going to have the numbers in the upper house to get the state of emergency powers extended by 12 months. Are you prepared to compromise?
Well, we’ll see what the parliament delivers. Again, we’re negotiating in good faith with each and every member of the crossbench and that won’t change, whether it be about this matter or any other matter. And there are many matters that the crossbench come to us on. There are many matters that we put before the parliament, and it’s always a respectful, proper engagement. This will be no different.
Are you prepared to look at a three or six… Oh sorry.
Speaker 5: (01:03:05)
No. You go ahead.
Are you prepared to look at a three month extension or a six month extension?
We’ll conduct those good faith negotiations with members of the crossbench, Rich, and that’s, I think, the appropriate thing to do. And I don’t want to be in any way having those discussions at a press conference like this. We made an announcement yesterday, which is what the government is perfectly entitled to do, but we will then have detailed discussions with each and every one of those crossbench members. And it won’t just be about these matters. We talk to them about many, many things, and the hallmark of those, that whole process is that we try and engage in good faith each and every time. Where people land, what the votes are, when the votes are cast, that’ll be entirely a matter for them.
And we are putting before the parliament a set of arrangements that are there to keep people safe. And the only restrictions that will ever be in place are ones that the chief health officer recommends are both proportionate to the challenge that we face and absolutely necessary, whether it be to drive down case numbers or indeed to, once you’ve achieved that, to then start to open up again. The notion that we could open up without legally enforceable directions on, for instance, someone who’s got the virus needing to stay at home and stay away from others, all the way through to a very high risk industry, not just on a handshake, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of everything in my abattoir.”
We need legally enforceable, COVID safe plans. Otherwise, the whole system simply wouldn’t work. And rather than opening up and having less rules, we would have to stay locked down for longer. That will be the logical extension. But again, let’s have those discussions with individual members of parliament and party leaders. And we’ll do that in good faith. And we’ll wait and see what comes out of that.
Speaker 5: (01:04:52)
What will happen towards the end of September if you don’t have the power? I know you don’t really want to talk about what plan B is. For sure, you’re having those discussions about what will happen if you –
Well, again, I don’t think we should get ahead of ourselves. I think that my colleagues across the political divide, whether it be in the lower house or in the upper house, I think that logic simply tells you that if we don’t have rules that can be enforced, then we won’t have rules at all. And if there are no rules, then we might have a public health response, and we’ll just see numbers go up and up and up and all the good work, all the sacrifice, all the pain that so many Victorians have had to endure, will have been for nothing. I don’t think it’s going to get to that. I think we’ll get a common sense outcome here.
And as was distributed last night, there are, in every other state, I stand to be corrected, I’m not sure about the territories but I think they might be included as well. There are unlimited extensions. So we can extend for four weeks, but we can only do that for a period of six months. We’d all love to think that this was over within six months. It’s not going to be because that’s only a couple of weeks away. The notion that we would then still be able to extend for no more than four weeks at a time for a period of 12 months, with the clear expectation that it would be much less than that, let’s have a good faith process and work through all those issues. We will. And we’ll wait and see how the votes are cast. And we’ll deal with the framework that the parliament gives us, just as we have been now. Noting, of course, that the restriction on the maximum extensions to six months is unique, that no other state has that sort of framework that can extend for as long as they need to.
Speaker 5: (01:06:31)
Were you expecting the reaction that you’ve had? The announcement yesterday, I think scared people, and people were automatically alarmed about the government having that much power. You’ve come in today and had to break it down to say, again, what it would mean.
Well, I did go to all these matters yesterday. I went to the four week issue. I went to some of the examples. In fact, I’ve got my notes here from yesterday around the power to require someone to isolate at home if they’ve got the virus, the power to put in place an enforceable COVID safe work plan for a high risk industry, things like face masks, density limits. So how many people can be in a pub or a cafe. That hasn’t changed since yesterday. Again, we don’t want anyone to be alarmed. We want to have rules in place that will get this job done. And once we’ve driven numbers down to very, very low levels, I want to keep them there. And the only way we’ll do that is if we’ve got some rules.
Now, if some people have drawn from that and coverage, might I say, that somehow this is a little stage four for another 12 months. That is inaccurate. I want to reassure people that is not accurate. That is not what’s happening here. Once we get those numbers down, we’ll be able to have an easier set of rules. I’m just trying to be upfront and frank with people. We’re not going to go from stage four to no rules at all. That’s just not going to be possible. Not until we get a vaccine. Hopefully that comes quickly. But you’ve got to assume, I think, that that’s still some way off. And there’s going to have to be something that sits between stage four hard lockdown and a vaccine. And that will be a series of these rules that are under the state of emergency and the need to continue to extend that on the best of medical advice, where it’s proportionate, where it’s exactly what you need. I think that’s a really important thing.
Speaker 5: (01:08:23)
Speaker 6: (01:08:26)
[crosstalk 00:56:04]. Can it expire for, let’s say, 24 hours, and then you put a new order in place? Is that then an alternative?
Well, we don’t think that would be the best way to go. We want to be able to continue to apply rules that are needed beyond the six months limit under the act. So the appropriate thing to do is to change the act.
Speaker 6: (01:08:44)
I guess the point I’m trying to make, you actually have a mechanism where you can keep it going into play, but this is more about extending it in case it is a more of a longterm situation or not?
No, the current act prevents the imposition of these rules and takes away the legal authority that underpins them after a period of six months.
Speaker 6: (01:09:02)
But you can’t renew it after-
… be that under [pinslam 01:09:00] after a period of six months.
Speaker 8: (01:09:03)
But you can’t renew it after a 24 hour period of [crosstalk 01:09:05]-
Well, I don’t think that would be a preferred way to go. If you believe that you’re going to need powers and rules to keep people safe for more than six months, because this thing’s not going away, because someone wrote in an Act 15 years ago that six months is the magic number, then I think the best thing is to be up front and put that request to the parliament. And then have members vote. And we’ll wait and see how that process goes.
Speaker 9: (01:09:34)
[crosstalk 01:09:34] And there’s rules-
Speaker 10: (01:09:34)
Work under the state of disaster.
Many of them can. Many of them can. But again, what we’re simply trying to do is deal with the fact that the Public Health and Wellbeing Act was rewritten, written afresh in the mid 2000s. I can remember it well, having played some role in it. I think I’m happy to concede that it did not foresee, it did not think that it would be relevant that something like this might last for more than six months. And if you want more than six months worth of rulemaking power, you go back to the parliament and ask for it. That’s exactly what we’ve done.
That isn’t to say that because we have asked for a rulemaking power for 12 months, that we will need rules for 12 months. Again, that can only be extended for four weeks. This is not a question that comes up in other states, because they have unlimited. They can extend it for a year, for two years, for five years with no reference to their parliament. This is slightly different. And I think the best thing to do is, if you want and you believe you need powers and legally enforceable rules, again, not the curfew and the hard lockdown, but some of the things we really have become very used to. The notion that if you’ve got it, you have to stay in your house to keep other people safe, being one example. Then you go back to the parliament and ask for that. And that’s exactly what we’ve done.
Speaker 11: (01:10:59)
To clarify, you said some. Are there other legal instruments, like the Infectious Diseases Act [crosstalk 00:01:11:04]-
Yeah. But that’s not… [crosstalk 01:11:06] Yeah, sure. There are many different ways in which you could get to that end, but I don’t think that’s necessarily… Well, you know, I think that you and others might have very different views on that. You might not think that was the best way to go. I think the easiest and cleanest thing to do is to say, right, Public Health and Wellbeing Act gives us the powers that we need. It gives the chief health officer the powers to advise me and the minister and others to do certain things. Not because we enjoy doing it, not because we want to do it. But because the evidence, the science, tells us that’s a proportionate response. It is limited at six months, clearly this thing’s going to run for more than six months, so we’re going to need to extend it.
That’s what we’re asking the parliament to do, nothing more, nothing less. It doesn’t mean the rules will be on for 12 months. What I can say to every single Victorian, the rules won’t be on for one moment longer than they need to be. We want to get to other side of this. But if we go from a really well-defined series of rules now, that by the way are working and driving case numbers down, to suddenly, oh, well, there’s no rules at all. Well, we know where case numbers will go. The wrong way. So we all hope, and we’re all working as hard as we possibly can to get this over as fast as possible. But ultimately until the vaccine comes, there will have to be some rules. They’re much easier to comply with than the current hard lockdown. But it doesn’t end on the 13th of September, or the 13th of October, or November. We’ll have to be guided by the data. And we’ll have to be guided by what the chief health officer and other experts tell us.
Speaker 12: (01:12:44)
[crosstalk 01:12:44] decided to those people who say, this is a totalitarian grab for power?
Well, that’s wrong. That’s not accurate in any way. And I’m not particularly interested in having those sort of debates. They don’t [crosstalk 01:12:55]… I’m not a commentator, Rich. I’m not going to-
Speaker 13: (01:12:59)
Is it responsible?
Well, it’s not accurate. And I always try and be accurate. Others will have to speak for themselves. Ultimately, the notion that on the 13th of September, we can just flick a switch and there’ll be no need for any rules whatsoever. I don’t know, it’s not for me to ask you questions. But how many times have I stood here and said, we can’t go back to normal like that. We have to find a COVID normal. That’s the real point here. And the Public Health and Wellbeing Act assumes that things would either be done and dusted within six months, or you would go back to the parliament and ask for more time. That’s all we’re doing, simply game back, because it’s not going to be over in a couple weeks time.
We’re going back to the parliament to say, look, we’re going to need more time with these rules to really crush this thing, to absolutely defeat it. The ultimate defeat though, of course, comes with a vaccine. And then there may not need to be any rules. That’d be a great day. But I can’t predict when that’s going to be. And the Act doesn’t either. The Act perhaps wasn’t written for a one in 100 year event. But I’m asking my colleagues across the political divide to make the necessary changes so that it’s fit for purpose for what is an ultra marathon, not a six month endeavor. Something that’s going to have to take longer.
Speaker 14: (01:14:16)
[crosstalk 01:14:16] back though by suspending parliament for as much of the six months as you have. It sort of, in terms of the perception that maybe you’re not accountable [crosstalk 01:14:25]-
Well, perceptions [inaudible 01:14:27] for others.
Speaker 14: (01:14:29)
But it’s an issue.
Well, what I’d say to you is this, how it looks, that’s a matter for others. And there’s no shortage of people who’ve got views and are happy to comment. That’s fine. If they’ve got time to do that, then that’s absolutely fine. Beyond that though, in terms of when the parliament has and has not sat, that’s been a function of advice from the chief health officer. It’s been a function of work that’s going on right now. I think that we will sit next week. That it’ll be a different sitting, in that there’ll be some people present, maybe even less people in person than we had previously. And then there will be via virtual arrangements. And again, I’m not fully briefed on where that’s landed, but there’s a cross party group. And I’m very grateful to everybody who is involved in that.
It will be a different sitting, but we’ll sit. And hopefully we can have some certainty come back to the sitting calendar. These have been pretty uncertain times though. And we’ve been getting on and getting the job done. And that’s why the numbers coming down is so important to us. But again, the how it looks and how people choose to comment on it, that’s not really my concern, to be honest. My concern, my only concern, is not so much having arguments with commentators. My concern is having an argument and winning the argument with this lethal virus.
Speaker 15: (01:15:44)
Professor [Sutton 01:15:44] has recommended that regional and [inaudible 01:15:47] don’t attend to parliament. Will regional labor MPs be attending-
No, they won’t be. Because we don’t believe that’s safe. I make no comment about other people. They can comment on their own decisions that they’ve made. But I don’t think that would be an appropriate thing to do. The challenge there, and one of the reasons why some of the virtual elements to this are so important, is that we would still be able to have everybody involved, they might be involved in different ways, but they need not be in Melbourne. And they need not be, I think, putting regional communities at risk.
Speaker 15: (01:16:30)
And does that advice by Professor Sutton, is that valid to next week as well?
I believe so. Again, there’ll be an answer made, I think, by the presiding officers. And, as I said before, there is a process where people are sitting down and working through those issues. I’m very grateful to all of them for doing that. And if we can have something that looks very different, but allows us to safely sit, then that’s a wholly good thing.
Speaker 16: (01:16:54)
[crosstalk 01:16:54] just in light of the data today, will the government introduce presumptive legislation for health care workers for work covered purposes?
Well, I think it’s really important on this matter, I’ll be communicating with every health worker across the state to make a really clear point. There is a work cover system there for you. And if you make an application to work cover, then I can confirm you will be processed within 24 hours. Some are being done even quicker than that, it’s only a matter of hours. People are being approved. I think there’s only been one claim that wasn’t approved, and it was actually a claim that was taken back. It was, people didn’t want to go forward with it. So in essence, that’s the most appropriate thing for us to do. We wouldn’t rule out looking at other issues, but the most appropriate thing to do is all the things that Andrew and Brett and Jenny have spoken to today. And then for those who still, via their work, finish up with this virus, we have to take care of them.
And one of the ways we do that is to approve and process their work cover claims as fast as we possibly can. And all my advice, as recently as last night, is that those claims are being processed very, very quickly. There’s essentially a streamlining that’s been set up to support those claims. What I want to make sure of, and we’ll do this in coming days, is to make sure that every health worker across the state knows that they can make those claims, knows that streamlined service is absolutely available to them so that they can put a claim in and be properly supported as soon as possible.
So that’s the focus. There may be other things that we need to do over time, but the most important thing is that every health worker knows that there’s an occupational health and safety system that is there for them. There is a streamlining, a fast tracking of all the claims that they put in. Where no one’s been told no, we are essentially, we are approving those claims so we can get the most practical support to nurses and others absolutely as fast as we possibly can.
Speaker 5: (01:18:59)
And will you consider the granting of presumptive compensation claims to healthcare workers, similar to what Western Australia has done?
Well, I think I probably just covered that by saying that the best thing to do is to fast track claims. There is a system there, an occupational health and safety system. And we’re not just putting those claims into a general pipeline, if you like. They’re being fast-tracked, they’re being approved. I’m aware of only one claim where the answer was not yes. And I think the fact of that is that the claim was actually withdrawn rather than anything else. What I’m really keen to make sure though, is that every single person who works in our health system knows and understands that if they make a claim, it will be fast tracked. It will be dealt with that very day so that we can provide support to them. That’s what I’m keen to make sure they all know about.
Speaker 5: (01:19:48)
But now that we know that 70 to 80% of healthcare workers who have contracted COVID-19 are contracting it at work, would you consider a presumptive grant in the compensation claims?
Well, [crosstalk 01:20:01] the whole issue is, if you’re approving applications really quickly, and you’re saying yes, there’s no need for a presumption. You don’t need to presume, you’re actually doing it. You’re actually providing answers. It’s not a reversal of the onus. I think it’s made unnecessary, because we’ve got a streamline process. What I’m really concerned about though, is to make sure that everyone who should be making a claim, is in fact doing that. So I’ll be writing, we’ll be communicating through unions, Peaks. And we’re very grateful to them for all the hard work and the partnership that we have with them. And to make sure that every single member of staff knows, if you get this, and you’ve got it at work, and that would seem to be the working assumption, then we will fast track your claim and you will get the support you need as fast as possible.
You don’t need any other legal framework, because the answer is yes. And it’s done quick.
Speaker 17: (01:20:57)
[crosstalk 01:20:57] workable solution on the borders communities there.
So there’s been some developments in relation to New South Wales, which we’re very grateful for. They’ve been announced, John Barilaro, the deputy premier, has made some announcements this morning. I’ve had some communications overnight, and again this morning with Steven Marshall, the premier of South Australia. And I believe, literally as we came in this morning, there was some announcements from the South Australian government in relation to reinstituting the 40 kilometer bubble. And I want to check this again. I’m told that those announcements were made. [crosstalk 01:21:32] I think, if it’s wrong, I’m sure you’ll pointed out to me. The other thing too, is that in my conversations with Premier Marshall, urgent medical care is obviously exempt from their border shut, Ag work, so work around primary production is exempt from their border shut as well.
That’s how it’s described to me. And subject to me checking it once we finish her today. If we’ve got those border communities now able to go a short distance into South Australia to get food and fuel, rather than having to go a long distance back into Victoria, that just makes sense. They are right on the border. We don’t have cases there. We’re very vigilant about that. And we’re very grateful if we’re able to make a tough set of circumstances just a little bit easier. And it seems that we have made some progress both on the New South Wales issues, and indeed DSA issues as well.
Speaker 5: (01:22:24)
Can I just ask off the back of that, there’s reports today of more multimillionaires heading off to Queensland and all that kind of thing. Is that fair that they seem to be able to go where they want, head to Queensland, and we’ve got border issues for farmers?
Oh, look, I can’t comment on Queensland’s arrangements. If there’s any person who’s in Queensland, then Queensland government or police would be the best people to comment on circumstances in which they find themselves there, and how they behave once they are. With the greatest of respect, I can’t speak to their rules. I can’t speak to their enforcement.
Speaker 5: (01:22:58)
Do we know how many Victorians have left?
No. And again, it’s not like… Our border is open, so we don’t need to provide people with permission. The only people who could tell you how many had left would be the authorities at the place they were going to. And indeed, the circumstances in which they’re there, and how they’re behaving, whether they’re doing the right thing or not. I can’t comment on that.
Speaker 18: (01:23:22)
Can we just get two bits of data? I don’t know if we can get a more detailed release from the chief medical officer on the healthcare worker breakdown. But I asked you last week as well about some regular metrics on contact tracing, just how long things are taking. Are we any closer to the [crosstalk 00:14:38]-
Well I think there’s, in one media conference, [Raf 00:14:41], I think we talked about a dashboard of testing and a whole range of other data. Which, I think we began the process of delivering that yesterday, or day before maybe. So that’s happening. And I’d hope that you would read into that, that we are, in an orderly way we are processing all the requests that you’ve made. And we’ll be able to give you a clearer sense of some of those metrics. That national dashboard is a really important part of it, just to make sure that we can benchmark. It is very challenging to benchmark, of course, given other states with a tiny number of cases, and us in a different set of circumstances. But that team is working very well. And we’ve seen, despite the fact that the task has gone up, our performance has gone up as well. Which is no easy thing to do.
Speaker 19: (01:24:24)
[crosstalk 01:24:24] Do you think business is affected by the stage four closures might be able to claim compensation from the state government for lost income or damage?
All that’d be a legal opinion, and I wouldn’t offer that. That’d be something that would have to come from the source of the general, or VJSO, or the courts. I wouldn’t speak to that. What I can say, is that we have tried as best we possibly can to provide practical support to businesses that have been affected. You can’t have a conversation about that without positively reflecting on the decisions of the national cabinet and the national government in relation to big increases in the job seeker rate. And of course the formation of the job keeper framework. The other thing, of course, that will dominate us exclusively once we’re to the other side of this second wave is saving jobs, creating jobs, building, driving investment, making sure that we’ve got the biggest and most comprehensive recovery plan that we’ve ever seen. Because this is a challenge, like none that we’ve ever seen before. That will be a direct benefit to businesses and workers and families. And we’ll have much more to say about that soon.
Speaker 5: (01:25:35)
Sorry, on data request, are you able to provide a breakdown of where the testing is happening, as in postcode or [crosstalk 00:16:43]-
I’m happy to have a look at that, and I’ll have someone come back to you.
Speaker 5: (01:25:46)
To the extent that we don’t have some of that data out there already, I’m happy to have a look at that.
Speaker 5: (01:25:50)
[crosstalk 01:25:50] Can I also get the latest on where the infections are, where community transmission, or where infections are occurring? Like as in workplace broke down again, or communities.
Sure. Happy to look at an update on that. I think the dashboard, as we announced, is pretty much about doing that. Not all that’s available now, but it’s going to be added to progressively, and that’ll give people line of sight of all those issues. Many of them become very important on the other side. So when people are locked up, and we’re in lockdown, then it’s perhaps a little bit less relevant that there was a positive case at setting A, B or C. Once people are moving around, then being able to give people that advice and a call to test, for instance, all of those things, that’ll become much more important.
Speaker 20: (01:26:30)
Two quick questions if I can.
Speaker 20: (01:26:32)
Protest planned for September five, your reaction to people attending that. And I’ll give you the second question at the same time. The seven day forecast is out, it’s going to be lovely on Saturday. Will we see ADF around at beaches and things patrolling areas that [crosstalk 01:26:45]-
I think you’ll see enforcement activity across the board, those rules remain in place. And they’re not there for fun. And they’re not there for any other reason than to keep driving those numbers down to the lowest possible level. As I’ve said many times, if we don’t properly defeat this in its second wave, we open up, everyone feels great for a couple of weeks, and then we’re into a third wave. That’s not where we want to find ourselves. We want to try and do everything we possibly can to see this thing off as it presents in the second wave, and then begin cautiously steadily opening up.
That’s all about economic activity, it’s about safety as well. We’ve got to do that properly. Now is not the time to protest. The only protest that any of us should be engaged in is against this virus. And it’s fundamentally wrong, irresponsible, and unsafe for people to be protesting. And I would urge them, and those close to them, not to do that. That just doesn’t make any sense. That could fritter away so much of the good work that we’ve done. Any other issues? Very good, thank you. We’ll see you tomorrow.
Speaker 21: (01:27:55)