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Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy on cases, unique position, community transmission


Australia’s chief medical officer says he’s worried about the rising number of coronavirus cases in the country.

But Professor Brendan Murphy did offer some positives, saying Australia is in a unique position because of the amount of cases coming from overseas travellers.

“So, we have just over 3000 cases in Australia,” he said in a press conference with Prime Minister Scott Morrison this afternoon.

“We are worried. We are worried about the growth. But as the Prime Minister said we’re in an almost unique situation in this country in that even now a substantial part of the new cases are returned travellers.”

More than two-thirds of Australia’s cases are from returned travellers, and a significant proportion of the other cases have been transmitted from returned travellers.

Mr Morrison said for that reason, the single most important thing the Government could do was completely stop the capacity for any returning traveller transmitting the virus.

Returned travellers will now have to isolate in hotels for two weeks.

“We would look after them when they get the virus, as some will do, as they continue to come home,” Prof Murphy said.

He said travellers were now coming from countries that had large outbreaks so the risks were “getting higher and higher” as the number of flights reduced, but the risk in those countries increased.

Prof Murphy said while most of the cases were from travellers, there was still concern about community transmission.

“There is small amounts of community transmission in some pockets in Sydney, which is probably the most significant in the country, but tiny pockets in other states,” he said.

“We think that we are pretty confident with our testing regime, which is one of the highest rates of testing per population in the world, with one of the lowest positivity rates.

“We’re not kidding ourselves – if community transmission becomes significant, that is the real serious concern.”

Prof Murphy said this was why social distancing rules were so important and why they would be in place for the “long haul”.

“So we have to have sustainable measures that every single citizen complies with every minute of the day, working from home where possible, going out only for the necessities,” he said.

“Not mingling with your friends in a shopping centre or in a park. Practise social distancing, hand hygiene, cough etiquette. Every minute of the day.

“As the Prime Minister said, we have seen dramatic improvements in the practices of every day Australians.”



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