House debates

Monday, 23 March 2020

Questions without Notice

Coronavirus

2:21 pm

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Health) Share this | Hansard source

I want to thank the member for Goldstein. I particularly want to acknowledge what he has done in his community, as many members on all sides of this chamber have done, in helping to bring their communities together in programs such as supporting seniors and others who are isolated, and building volunteer programs. It's something that each and every one of us can do in our own communities. I know my Mornington shire, under the leadership of the mayor, Sam Hearn, have done similar things. I just wanted to acknowledge that example, but I know that there are people on all sides of the chamber doing a similar thing.

In terms of the situation, as the Prime Minister set out, there are now over 1,600 cases, informed to us by the national incident centre just prior to coming here today, and very significantly 135,000 tests have been carried out. That number will increase as the course of the day goes on. That is one of the highest actual numbers in the world. It's also one of the highest per capita numbers—now over half a per cent of the population—but, with the available data we have seen, that is one of the lowest, if not the lowest, positive rates. What does that actually mean? It means that we are testing broadly and more widely than almost anybody else, and therefore picking up cases. That's an extremely important thing. That's why in the advice that the AHPPC, or the medical expert panel, to which the Prime Minister referred previously, put out last night was that the situation with our first thousand cases is somewhat different to that of other countries such as Italy and the USA when they were at a thousand. They then set out what was the case with regard to the sad and tragic loss of life, where it was much higher in other countries than it has been in Australia.

The latest advice is seven lives lost, sadly. But, interestingly, they go on to say that we have one of the lowest COVID-19 test positivity rates in the world—approximately one per cent—compared to the USA of 13 per cent, the UK of five per cent and even the Republic of Korea, or South Korea, of three per cent. Most interestingly, there have been, at this stage, on the last advice that I have—and it may have changed—less than 20 cases that have been to ICU. That's a very important sign. What that says is that our actual recognition of cases is much more accurate than many other comparable countries, and that's shown by the level of lives lost relative to the first 1,000 and the level of ICU cases, both of which are far lower than the rest of the world. Against that background, the steps that we are taking, as we have said—ventilators, the work on testing, the work and preparation of ICUs—all of these things, as I may have a chance to explore later, are being done through a combination of primary care, aged care, hospitals and research. It is a comprehensive program. Yes, it is moving, and I must say a special thanks to all of our health workers, who are our real heroes around the country.

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