Press Conference - Parliament House

Transcript
05 Mar 2020
Parliament House, Canberra
Prime Minister
E&OE

PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon, everyone. The National Security Committee met again this morning, around three hours, to consider a lot of the report-backs on the matters that we considered last week and to continue on with their preparedness under the national emergency plan for the coronavirus. The first point I want to make is this, every Australian, all of our citizens, whether you’re the Prime minister, the Minister for Health, the Chief Medical Officer, mums, dads, school teachers, nurses, paramedics, childcare workers, boys and girls, we all have a role to play in containing and managing the spread of the coronavirus and ensuring that Australia is best prepared and best able to deal with this global virus. We all have a role to play. We all have responsibilities to play. To support each other, help each other, inform each other, assist each other, as we all get through what will be a difficult time in the months ahead. 

The Minister for Health and the Chief Medical Officer will speak to the various statistics on what we're learning around the world. But we all have a role to play. Today we made a decision in relation to travel bans to, of course, continue the travel bans in relation to mainland China and in relation to Iran. We have also today decided that we will put in place a travel ban in relation to the Republic of Korea. We will also put in place what are enhanced screening measures to deal with those travellers that come from Italy. And I want to be very clear about what those enhanced screening measures involve. Travellers will be asked mandatory questions at check-in and anyone failing those checks will be denied approval to board. If anyone gets sick on board, biosecurity and health will meet the plane on arrival and manage those people directly. On arrival, travellers will not be able to use the smart gates. They will have to be dealt with directly by an officer and they will be asked further detailed questions. They will undergo health screening at the airport, which involves temperature checks and associated checks. If necessary, Health will make a decision on what is to happen with that passenger and Border Force and biosecurity officers will also be placed in the baggage halls to conduct a further questioning and checking. These are the enhanced screening measures. They are they require a much greater deployment. The cohort that we're seeing coming from Italy, as opposed to the Republic of Korea, we have about five times, in fact, just over that five times the number of people coming from Korea than we do coming from Italy. The other issue is that with Italy, this more broadly feeds into the issue of Europe and travel from Europe more broadly. And we'll be watching closely those developments over the days and weeks ahead. In relation to the Republic of Korea, we will also be upgrading the travel advice to Level 3, which is to reconsider the need to travel to the Republic of Korea, and it will be at a Level 4, which is do not travel, to the province of Daegu. Now in relation to Korea, the reason we've taken the decision to put the travel ban in place is because of the much higher level of visitation and travel we are seeing from Korea, than we have from those who are coming out of Italy. And that means the ability to immediately put in place the enhanced screening measures that I've talked about for Italy, to do that for Korea would be far more difficult. And so the better decision is to put that ban in place, because we believe that affords the best protection and will enable us to, as has always been our objective, to slow down the rate of transmission, which means that the health system and all the other plans that we're putting in place will be able to deal with the virus here in Australia.

Today also, the National Security Committee has reviewed the progress on potential pandemic  preparations. That has gone from everything from the availability of surgical masks, in particular to working with the aged care sector. Tomorrow, there will be a rather intensive workshop with aged care sector to be working through the issues in relation to aged care. Later today, I think even as we speak, there's one currently going on with Indigenous community, to ensure that the plans we have in place will be effective in those communities. We're also standing up from today what is known as the national coordination mechanism that is being stood up through Home Affairs. They’re the arrangements that are normally put in place through Emergency Management of Australia in relation to national disasters and things of that nature. That will coordinate together with the states and territories, the whole-of-government responses to what needs to be addressed outside the direct health management. So issues around hospitals, and primary care, and working with the aged care sector, that will continue to be a direct responsibility working out of the Department of Health. But broader issues, when it comes to power, continuity of services, working with state governments, the execution of powers, all of these types of things, ensuring we're supporting workforce needs and how those issues can be managed on the ground, and working with state and territory police forces. There are a broad range of other issues that have to be managed which are not directly health-related, and this coordination mechanism will mean that we'll have the best possible interface with states and territories well ahead frankly, of many of these issues which are not present at the moment, but if they become an issue that has to be managed into the future, we will have mechanisms in place to be able to address those issues. So Australia, as I've said many times, we've got ahead of this early. We intend to stay ahead of this. The measures that we've announced today following the NSC meeting will assist us to continue to stay ahead of this issue. But I say to all Australians, you can help too. You can help by keeping calm and going about your business. You can help by supporting those who may be undergoing self-isolation. I think it has been an extraordinary thing to see Australians who have complied with and cooperated with the self-isolation requirements that we've put in place. We've got tens of thousands of Australians who've been subject to those. And indeed today, those who are quarantined under the Diamond Princess will be returning to their families. And I know they'll be looking forward to that. And I know their families will be looking forward to seeing them. We want to thank them for their patience and cooperation, and all of those who have been involved up there in Howard Springs and providing support and care to them. And I particularly want to thank the Northern Territory Government as well, for the great job they have done in supporting us as we've put these quarantine arrangements in place.

So to all Australians, let's get through this together. Let's help each other. Let's stay calm. Let's go about our business. Let's continue to enjoy the most wonderful country in the world in which to live, and that doesn't change under these circumstances. And we've always worked well together. We've always understood what our responsibilities are. And we've always gone about our business with common sense. And that's what we're known for. So let's do that, and I'm sure, I have no doubt, Australians will get through this like we get through everything else. Greg.

THE HON. GREG HUNT MP, MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks very much, Prime Minister. Let me start by thanking all of those involved in the Howard Springs temporary quarantine process for the passengers from the Diamond Princess. I particularly want to thank, as the Prime Minister has, the Northern Territory, but also Australian Border Force and especially the AUSMAT team. The Australian Medical Assistance Team, where many of them have been within the quarantine environment themselves. We know that there have been 10 patients who have been diagnosed during the course of that, none for some days now consistent with the incubation period. Because they were in quarantine, two things happened. Firstly, they were able to be cared for and given the best care immediately. Very sadly, of course, we lost one gentleman, Mr James Kwan from Western Australia, but that care has helped save and protect them, and at the same time it has helped protect the broader community. And there were questions at the time as to why we imposed that quarantine. I think it's now absolutely clear that it was the right, and sensible, and appropriate thing to do. More broadly, around the world, we see that the coronavirus COVID-19 has spread to 80 countries now. Over 95,000 cases have been diagnosed, but we expect that the real number is somewhat higher than that because of undiagnosed cases. We know that very sadly, over 3,250 people have lost their lives. In that context, Australia has experienced its second life lost, the 95-year-old woman who has been in the Baptist Care aged home from Sydney. I referenced her case yesterday. That has now been confirmed as being related to coronavirus. And so, we are very sad for her and her family. And at the same time, we know that the total number of diagnosed cases in Australia has now reached 53. I want to thank all of the health authorities involved, not just in that case, but particularly New South Wales health and the Government there in assisting, but around the country. The state and territory Health Ministers and health departments for taking their role in helping to provide care and protection. And we're working with primary care, aged care. We're working with our dental community, we're working with all of the different health and medical providers around the country in constant communication. But we've further plans to, and this builds on the work which the Chief Medical Officer started in January, the travel bans that we put in place. Today's actions are the latest step in what is a carefully considered plan, which is being implemented as circumstances require.

DR. BRENDAN MURPHY, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Thanks, Prime Minister and Minister. So, clearly the community has had some concerns about the outbreak in Sydney. The small community outbreak. But this is a very small cluster of cases. It's being very actively managed by New South Wales Health. I have the highest confidence in New South Wales Health - all through this outbreak, the Commonwealth, all of the states and territories have been working closely in collaboration, and I have great confidence that they will chase down, track the source of that outbreak and contain it. The risk around the rest of Australia, as I've said on many occasions, all other cases have essentially been imported cases. There is no other evidence of community transmission anywhere else in Australia. The importation risk, as we've also said recently, has been significantly greater outside of China in recent weeks, particularly Iran, where we've seen most of our recent imports coming from. We are very worried about Iran. But clearly the two other highest risk countries are South Korea and Italy, where they have large case loads. And in the case of South Korea, where there is significant travel to Australia.

We know that we will get more cases. We are seeing a couple of cases identified every day, but we have very robust systems to detect. As we've said many times before, we've tested well over 10,000 people. The great majority have been negative. We will continue testing anyone with a return travel history, or indeed now as New South Wales Health did, people with us who may have had been in contact with someone who have a suspect disease. We need to broaden our testing capability. But we need to also remember the most important thing, and I say this every time I talk to the media, is that any return traveller from any part of the world, where there's a COVID-19 outbreak, who develops symptoms, should isolate and seek medical attention. That is the most important way we can deal with and stop spread in Australia. But at the moment, and I’ve said this on many occasions too, there is no reason to put a mask on when you're walking around the shops. There's no reason to stop going to football matches or community activities. There is no reason to denude the shelves of lavatory paper in the supermarkets. We should continue our normal activity. We will watch the development of this and we will focus on any outbreaks and control them. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Dr Murphy. Questions?

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the travel ban, I presume only applies to non-citizens and residents -

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, same arrangements in place for mainland China and Iran.

JOURNALIST: Will there be the enhanced screening measures or self-isolation requested of Australian citizens returning from Korea?

PRIME MINISTER: Correct.

JOURNALIST: And is that enforceable?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, in the same way that the arrangements have been put in place so successfully for mainland China and Iran, which has been very effective, and I would expect people to be absolutely complying with those very, very straightforward requests. Mark.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, considering what the RBA and Treasury have said about the potential economic costs of this virus and the spread of the virus, are you now reconsidering perhaps direct stimulus through families and seniors in addition to the support for businesses and the affected sectors? Or are you keeping up your sleeve for a second phase?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I've said all along that what needs to happen is targeted, I've said it needs to be measured by proportion, and it needs to be scalable. And that's certainly the response that we're working on at present. You would have heard the evidence provided today, the report provided today by the Secretary of Treasury. You have heard from the Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank last night about the impacts certainly in the March quarter that they anticipate. And not only just from the coronavirus, but also the bushfire affect as well, you have heard from Secretary of Treasury today. So for the coronavirus, a serious global health crisis that has very significant economic impacts are equal to that that we could have anticipated really from what happened with the Global Financial Crisis many years ago, but with very different causes. And the task that we have is very different from the one that was in place 12 years ago. And that's why we're working very swiftly to put those measures in place. And we're considering a wide range of options. And when we finalise that, then we’ll obviously make our announcements.

JOURNALIST: With the Grand Prix coming up in Melbourne, the announcement today of the Republic of Korea and Italy will have impacts on that. Are there any special arrangements being made for that? And perhaps one for the Minister, do you have any plans for the production of face masks and any additional measures for nursing homes?

PRIME MINISTER: Well firstly in relation to the Grand Prix, obviously that's a matter for the Victorian Government, how they're managing those things on the ground. But in terms of the travel ban, well it has an obvious impact for the Republic of Korea. That kicks in from 9:00 o'clock this evening. In relation to visitors from Italy, which is less than a fifth of the sort of travel that we're currently seeing out of the Republic of Korea. And so I'm not really anticipating any great impact there in terms of what we've seen up until now and the level of travel. 

We all need to remember that as this virus has gone on, we're already seeing very significant reductions in the number of people travelling, regardless of travel bans. Australians will be travelling less out of the country. Those coming to the United States, they're travelling less out of the United States, out of Europe, out many parts of the world. So we're already seeing a reduction, and that will obviously have the impact on major events and tourism and those things, and that's part of the economic impact that we're going to see. But those enhanced screening measures will be in place for those as visitors have been coming through Italy, and indeed Australians that are coming back from Italy, and those self-isolation arrangements will apply to them. So in terms of what the Victorian Government is seeking to put on the ground, then I'm sure the Premier would be able to elaborate further. But on the masks issue, I’ll throw to the Health Minister.  

MINISTER HUNT: So currently, we have 20 million masks as part of the national medical stockpile. We've made supplies available to general practices through two rounds of allocation to what are called the primary health networks, where those general practices that have needed them for their purposes have been able to obtain them. Part of tomorrow's work with the general practices is to identify any further and additional needs. So I think we have already been assisting in allocating. Tomorrow we'll be looking at additional needs. And I'll explain it this way, that we're making very good progress on any additional procurement requirements for Australia.

JOURNALIST: Based on the current information that you have in terms of spread and transmission, do you have any figures as to how many people are estimated in Australia to contract the disease? And what the health system is facing?

PRIME MINISTER: I might ask Dr Murphy to speak to that.

DR MUPRHY: So there’s a range of modelling. Modelling is just mathematical predictions. But we, and we've got those predictions from best case scenario to worst case scenario. And then looking at what impact that would have on every part of the sector. Primary care sector, emergency departments, ward beds, critical care beds. And we're looking at our current capacity, and we're going to compare that with the model capacity. But we're looking at scenarios from the most benign through to, you know, some millions of people being infected over a period of several weeks, and we think our health system is well-prepared to cope with that. But we're making sure, the Prime Minister has been very clear to us, that we need to be sure that we plan for every eventuality and build capacity where we think it may be under pressure if we have one of the worst case scenarios.

PRIME MINISTER: So yeah, we've been careful not to be speculative about this in the public domain. What we have done all the way through this global health crisis, I think, to be very candid and upfront with the Australian people, and we’ll continue to do that. But what we won't do is, I think is be speculative about these sorts of things because we were not in the position of creating unnecessary anxiety. What we're in the business of doing is making plans to ensure that we can deal with any gaps or suspected shortfalls or have contingencies in place that address what we may be seeing coming through the modelling. But the modelling at this stage, you know relies on a lot of data. Some of which is being sourced from experiences we're seeing overseas, where you have to have a degree of scepticism about a lot of the assumptions you put in place. Katharine?

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just back on the travel ban, just for a sec. Can I get the rationale for it, because I may have erroneously thought that once there were community transmissions, or once we were in a period of community transmissions that bans were no longer effective in the sense that the horse had already gone and so forth. What is the rationale for the Korean travel ban? And also, if I may, just to Professor Murphy, just picking up on something you said in Senate Estimates yesterday, just that we would need more pathology capacity down the track for testing. That we might have to go into the private system in order to have that capacity. I’m just interested in whether or not the Government’s done any costings of what that might cost?

PRIME MINISTER: Sure, I’ll allow Dr Murphy to address that issue. That was another issue that we actually considered again this morning.

DR MURPHY: So we're actively engaging with the private sector over the coming days. We will be expanding the testing capacity into the private sector. Commercial tests are available. They're keen to help. And we're just working out the logistics of how to make that happen. At the moment, the public labs are coping brilliantly with the load that they have. But if they're- we will need the private labs, we're going to do more testing as further cases emerge. So that's being finalised and sorted out over the next few days.

MINISTER HUNT: Both Dr Murphy myself have spoken with the private sector and as he says, they are very willing and keen to do their bit for Australia and to help. And so that's not just an option, that's a plan which we are seeking to implement and we'll be able to do that.

PRIME MINISTER: So they'll be bringing back estimates to that effect and then we will be moving to act on those. But it's quite clear that this will enhance the capability for testing. But as Dr Murphy says, I mean people if they are turning up to their GP, or going to an emergency department, or if they’re indeed in an aged care facility, and there's a test that's being conducted, that's being turned around within a day. And I think the public labs are doing a great job on that. But it will certainly help to get more labs involved in this process.

On your other question Katharine, the AHPPC, you're right. They have said that travel bans, once you get into sort of broad community transmission, you know, have it have a different effect. And Dr. Murphy I’ll ask to speak to that specifically. The issue for the Government though today was the ability to put in place enhanced screening measures for both the Republic of Korea and Iran. I’m sorry, Italy. And given that the volume of travellers coming out of the Republic of Korea was more than five times what it is out of Italy, that may well be possible, within a matter of days or weeks to be able to ensure that we can deal with that. Right now, when I put the direct questions to Border Force about what can be stood up, absolutely, they can do that in relation to the volume we're seeing coming out of Italy and we'll do that. And until such time, they'd be able to do that for the Republic of Korea, then certainly the ban is the best way that the Government felt was that was the way to go. But you might want to speak to the advice that we received, Brendan.

DR MURPHY: So certainly the AHPPC advice, as you said, is that at this stage, travel restrictions won't prevent all new entry. But certainly the AHPPC were of the view that the Iran travel ban was a good delaying tactic. And in this case, I think Government's decision, as Prime Minister has said, was based on- the Government was very keen to introduce enhanced border screening, because Italy and South Korea are high risk countries. AHPPC has confirmed that they're the two highest risk countries. Government was keen to put in enhanced border screening and because Border Force felt that that would be difficult to do for both countries at once, a travel ban does stop about half of the traffic coming and it just makes it easier for Government to do the border screening.

JOURNALIST: Financial markets are sort of hanging on your words around internal restrictions on travel and activity. They want a sort of a yardstick or a number of deaths or a number of infections, at which point you would start to become more strict about using the Commonwealth's powers of restricting activity or people's movements.

PRIME MINISTER: Within Australia?

JOURNALIST: Within Australia. Can you give them some sort of yardstick or a number of deaths at which point you start to think more severely about that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I can understand the interest, but what is also important is that we're dealing with a situation which has a lot of unknowns in it. And I think it would be unwise for the Government to constrain itself in how it would deal with this issue going forward. There are clear powers, but the purpose of briefings such as this is I think to set out what is the context. And the context at present remains, and I'll allow Dr. Murphy to comment on this, is that compared to other countries around the world at the moment, we are not experiencing some of the more difficult challenges that they are. And the work that is being done both by the Federal Government and the state and territory governments in containing, and particularly in aggressively tracing any cases to contain them also, has been very effective to date. But there are obvious limitations to that. And I think Katharine's question goes to those limitations. I mean, as the Health Minister said, 80 countries now. That's double what we were talking about last week. And so, when it moves to that level, then obviously, as we predicted, I mean, what we're seeing now is what we anticipated would happen. That's why we took the decisions we took last week. It's why we took the decisions we did in advance of the rest of the world some weeks ago. We will continue to do that. And what I think investors, what I think the markets, I think what business can be confident about, is that the Government is acting on the best possible advice. We're getting access to the best of possible information. We are meeting regularly as a Government, as a National Security Committee of Cabinet. The national coordination mechanisms that we put in place today further extends that coordination and management of the Government's response. So for example, in more extreme situations when you would have to deal possibly, but I certainly don't see any risk of that at this present time, on issues around mass gatherings, for example. I mean, there are no suggestions there should be no mass gatherings in Australia. The only advice that I think Dr Murphy has wisely said is the only people who shouldn't turn up to mass gatherings are those who have got symptoms. They should do the right thing by their fellow Australians, exercise their responsibility that they have as citizens, and follow the medical advice to prevent the spread of the virus here in Australia. So we've got good plans in place, good responsiveness, good preparedness. We've got the resources to be able to address both the health requirements and the economic impacts and the goodwill, and good faith between ourselves and the state and territory governments to do what is needed to be done. Phil?

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just on the measures you’ll be announcing in your stimulus package. Do any of them require legislation? And if so, I think there’s only one Sitting Week after this in the next couple of months, would you envisage maybe to bring back Parliament for special sitting too?

PRIME MINISTER: Well Phil, when we've finalised the package, we’ll make announcements about the package and any arrangements we would need to put in place to ensure that we could get those things in order. Michelle?

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER: Sorry, Michelle. Dennis [inaudible]. Michelle, and then we’ll go to Dennis.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hunt, can you update us whether there’s been a solution in the argument between the New South Wales Government and the Federal Government about, I think, financing any temporary workforce?

MINISTER HUNT: So I'd respectfully characterise that very differently. Last week at COAG, there was agreement between the Commonwealth and the states to work very constructively, and in partnership, and that was recorded in the COAG Communique. I know that the –

JOURNALIST: Isn’t New South Wales complaining now though?

MINISTER HUNT: With respect, I know that whilst we're in NSC, Senator Colbeck, on my behalf and his own as Aged Care Minister, had a very constructive conversation with the New South Wales Health Minister. And I believe we've made very significant progress on that. And I know that the Prime Minister has spoken with the Premier. So we're working in partnership with all of the states and territories. What actually happened yesterday was the plan was implemented. There was an aged care facility which did have an issue because of transmission. What occurred was New South Wales Health delivered on what had been agreed and what had been prepared for, and their response was exemplary. And I want to thank and honour them for that. And what that means is that the first thing, our great task, is to protect everybody and to put human health and safety above all else. And then as we agreed with COAG last week, we're actually making very significant progress on ensuring that we're sharing the responsibility.

PRIME MINISTER: And so, to add to that answer, we will share the costs of what is necessary and we will do that constructively and cooperatively, and we'll do it in good faith. The Premier and I had a good conversation about those things today. The Treasurers will work through those details. This is a challenge for both Commonwealth and state governments. We all have our special responsibilities that we have to meet, and there are those that we have to do on our own. We'll meet the border arrangements. We'll deal with all those sorts of issues. We'll deal with the national stockpile of masks and so on. And we'll also share the burden with states on our shared costs that we have, whether it's in the hospital system or other places. But what I want Australians to be very encouraged by is everybody's working together. There's no quibbling about this sort of stuff. We'll just get on and do it, because that's what we all owe it to you to keep you safe. And I can assure you that leaders will continue to operate in that way in good faith. And I want to thank all the Premiers and Chief Ministers - I've had a lot of interaction with them lately, constant communication on these things. And they're focusing on what they need to do in their states, and so we're not tripping over each other. They're doing what they need to do. They know what we need to do. And this national coordination mechanism, which I announced today, which is being stood up, will only make that even more effective on things beyond the health responses. That coordinating mechanism supports the health responses, but it extends across to a broader range of issues that are really joint responsibilities, or supportive responsibilities, between state and territory governments. Dennis.

JOURNALIST: I was actually going to ask questions as Michelle, but given all of this great federal-state cooperation on the coronavirus, is that actually continuing with the bushfire recovery that you're not being distracted by coronavirus?

PRIME MINISTER: Not distracted. And the cooperation continues in relation to the bushfires. Absolutely it does. And I pay credit to former AFP Commissioner Colvin. I mean he's out there today doing exactly that. I made comments yesterday in the House about the work we're doing, working with the states in revising the, particularly the small business program. But the other areas of the program, particularly for primary producers and so on, that's progressing very well. The states do all of those assessments, and determine the eligibility, and make the payments, and the Commonwealth provides the resources for those payments. So, you know that, that I think is progressing well. And that will be obviously another issue that we'll discuss. I mean COAG meets at the end of next week and these will be substantive items on our agenda next week. 

JOURNALISTS CROSSTALK

PRIME MINISTER: Sorry. You guys sort it out and then decide. Well done.

JOURNALIST: You mentioned there would be intensive workshops for aged care providers. Are you able to give any detail of what you're actually, practically going to be advising them? And also, back on the issue of broader education, you’ve mentioned there’s no need for panic buying, but when can we expect the Government's public health campaign to really kick off in terms of that mass media messaging to actually get people, I guess, doing the right thing? Both in terms of health and also other social behaviour?

DR MURPHY: So in terms of the aged care, we clearly need to work with the aged care sector to look at their needs in managing outbreaks. As we've seen in that facility in Sydney, there are demands on a facility when they have to isolate people, they have to make sure they have the right protective equipment and that we have to look at how we can support them in the workforce space. And those are all of the things we're looking at. Looking at how they would test people, which people if they became unwell, would be transferred to hospital, which people if they were very mildly unwell might be able to be nursed in the facility. Because as we know and we've said many times, a lot of people with this condition have very, very mild conditions. In terms of the communications package, the Prime Minister might want to talk to that, but he's authorised a very significant communications package, which is being developed at the moment across the whole community, not just the healthcare sector, but the broad community.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that's correct, and that's being developed as we speak. It's an important priority for all the reasons that you've said. But I would like to pay credit to not only Dr Murphy, but Dr Kelly, the state health officers that have been, I think very upfront, holding regular briefings and that information is being reported by you all, and hopefully helping Australians as they seek to understand what the ramifications are for them. And the truth is right now, the ramifications for individual Australians, except if you've been in an area where there's been outbreaks of the virus or if you happen to be more elderly or have other frailties, then for the rest of Australians, right now there really isn't any great impact on your daily life, other than, for you personally, and your own health. Obviously, the economic impacts are certainly there, and that is why the Government's pulling together a package. And we'll be announcing that once that's finalised and that will be sort of addressing the needs of business in particular, for people to stay in jobs, for business to stay in business, and for business to invest, to ensure that on the other side of this, because we will get through this.

MINISTER HUNT: So I'll just add one thing here. From the very first day that Dr Murphy made the declaration of this as a disease of pandemic potential, we've been engaged in public information, both in terms of the decisions. Informing people, I think we made the decision to be transparent, early and frequent. And so those three principles of transparency, early provision of information, and frequency, have governed what we've done. We've also engaged in direct communications with the Chinese community, which was the most affected from the outset. We are working with different communities throughout it, and then providing specific information as we have worked with all of the medical sectors throughout. So we'll continue to do that. The aged care and primary care roundtables are tomorrow. But in addition to that, what the Prime Minister has signalled is that there’s further direct public communication in terms of express information, on top of the daily briefings that we've been providing.

PRIME MINISTER: Mark, I think we have time for one more. Mark.

JOURNALIST: It’s in relation to that. Does that mean a mass communications program along the lines of what the British Government's launched? Advertising just to ensure that people don’t panic?

PRIME MINISTER: It’ll be a comprehensive communications program, Mark. And that's important to give people practical information about what's occurring. And the whole purpose is to ensure that Australians can go on about their daily lives. 

As I said at the start of this briefing, we all have a role to play, to ensure that Australia comes through this coronavirus, a global crisis. So that on the other side, we're healthy, we're together, that our economy bounces back and bounces back strongly. Of course it's a big challenge. And the Government will do what it needs to do, and we have been. We got ahead, we’re staying ahead, working closely with the state and territory governments. But all of us as Australians have a role to play, by staying calm, by supporting each other, by listening to the advice, by acting on that advice. And for those who are affected by the virus, helping them out too. If people are in self-isolation the Deputy Prime Minister was saying today that if someone is in a rural and regional area, you know there isn't the same access to UberEats for example, as there might be in cities. So, you know, make them a curry and take it around if they need one, and so they can be looked after if they're self-isolating. That's what communities do, and I have no doubt that's what Australians will do. We all have a role to play. And together we'll get through this. Thank you very much.