ABC News Interview: News Breakfast: Victorian COVID-19 Outbreaks



SUBJECTS: Victorian Covid-19 Outbreaks

BEN KNIGHT, HOST: The Coronavirus situation in Victoria and the decision to lock down certain suburbs is looming large on the minds of Victoria’s leaders today. But is this what residents want? Peter Khalil is the federal member for Wills, which takes in the hotspot suburbs of Brunswick West and Fawkner. Peter, good morning. Welcome to News Breakfast. 

PETER KHALIL MP: Morning Lisa, how are you? 

LISA MILLAR, HOST: Good, good. Look, tell us, what is the mood like in your electorate this morning? 

KHALIL: Well, look, everybody is really, really worried. There’s a lot of anxiety and, of course, we have all gone through enormous sacrifices in the last couple of months, such as not seeing family and friends. Small businesses have really suffered, and people have been struggling, particularly members of the community who are vulnerable elderly Australians and people who are casual workers and have been left out of the economic stimulus. So there’s been a lot of angst, a lot of anxiety, a lot of frustration, and people are worried, which is a natural human reaction. I think probably the other thing, Lisa, is that the thing that we’ve been missing most is human contact, which is so important to all of us and so this has been difficult as well. Some people like being alone and being isolated, but the vast majority don’t. So, it’s been a very, very difficult period, and I think now with this second spike that we’re seeing in Melbourne particularly, people are even more concerned about what this might mean for their lives going forward. 

MILLAR: Peter, what’s gone wrong in those areas? Why are we seeing the hotspots? 

KHALIL: Well, as you’ve obviously reported very well on the ABC, the fact is that many of these are clusters that have emerged from particular family groups. There have been some front-line workers who’ve caught it either working in the quarantine hotels or in other areas on the front-line and have come back and infected members of their own family. There’s a couple of clusters that emerged in that way, and others where families have got together in large groups and someone has been infected in there and they shouldn’t have done that, they shouldn’t have breached social distancing. There’s also been a number of transmissions, community transmissions that were unaccounted for, or haven’t been linked to a particular chain, which have come up in the testing. This is not a bad thing, Lisa, because the more testing you do, the better you can pick up these cases that you otherwise wouldn’t have found and can start the tracing process for those cases. So it’s a mixed bag, but it is concerning because there’s been some 71 new cases across the state just last night.  

MILLAR: So, we need a lock-down?  

KHALIL: Well, that’s a good question. The Federal and State governments are discussing all of the responses and what’s available to them. There is a potential for a local lock-down, similar to what is happening in some other parts of the world, where you lock down either a local government area or a particular suburb. That would have a very, very significant and severe effect on the people in those communities. Obviously, it’s better than a lockdown of the entire city, clearly, and that’s something that would have to be implemented based on the medical advice as we see whether the effects of the responses in the last couple of days will actually have an effect to lower the numbers. 

I just want to say one other thing, Lisa. There are a lot of multicultural and diverse communities in my electorate who are being severely impacted, and we are aware that sometimes it is very difficult to get information out to diverse communities in their languages. I’ve put out letters in the top six languages in simple messaging: Wash your hands regularly; if you’re feeling unwell, get tested; if you’re feeling unwell, stay home. This is just the basic messaging around COVID-19, the basic health advice. Of course, these letters also have numbers to call our office so we can assist those people. This is important, because not only are older Australians vulnerable, there are also those who are from migrant backgrounds that revert to their language as they get older, like my parents, and also new and emerging migrant groups that are doubly impacted because of the social economic disadvantage that you see in some of the suburbs in my electorate. So, you see this increase in infection rates, particularly in areas where there’s financial hardship and there is housing affordability stress, and we’re seeing the impact doubled up when you add on the fact that there are a lot of diverse communities that have English as a second language as well.  

MILLAR: Peter, just really quickly, you said 71 before the figure for the previous 24 hours was 75. Do you have a scoop on what the most recent figure is? 

KHALIL: Only what the ABC was reporting. I thought there was a reclassification of four, but it might be 75 Lisa. 

MILLAR: Okay, no worries. Peter Khalil thanks for joining us this morning.  

KHALIL: Thanks for having me on, cheers.