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Interview - Sunrise, Channel 7

25 March 2020

Natalie Barr

Subject: New COVID-19 social distancing measures


Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews was interview on Channel 7's Sunrise.

Natalie Barr: Joining me now is Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews. Morning to you.

Karen Andrews: Good morning.

Natalie Barr: There are also new limits on the number of people who can attend a funeral or a wedding. How do you think Aussies will take to these strict new measures?

Karen Andrews: Well, what we’re encouraging all Aussies to do is to follow these common-sense rules because that’s the way that we’re going to save lives and that’s the point that we’re at now. Everything that governments at all levels are doing is designed to save people's lives, now and over the coming weeks and months. So what we're saying to Aussies is we know absolutely how tough this is and we understand your frustrations when things aren't going exactly as you need them at the time that you need them, but this is here to save people's lives.

Natalie Barr: The UK and New Zealand have introduced total lockdowns. Some Australian medical experts have suggested we should do the same. Why aren't we in full lockdown?

Karen Andrews: So this is a crisis on two levels as the Prime Minister has very clearly said. We're fighting it at the health level to try and contain the virus, to slow down the rate of infections. That’s critical work and a big shout out to all the health professionals that are working so hard to do that. But we also have some economic issues as well, and there are some key things that we need to keep going, to support Australia. We also want to cushion the blow and make sure that we come out of this - and we will come out of this - when we come out of this, we are best placed to get people back into work and to go back to making sure that we have a high level of employment and that we have our industries ramping up and producing at capacity.

Natalie Barr: But Karen, we’ve got doctors saying this is doubling every four days. We have- at the peak of this, almost 1400 people a day are going to require intensive care beds. We have 2200 in this country. Wuhan is now reopening and they shut down, so maybe we’ve messed this up?

Karen Andrews: I don't think we’ve messed this up at all. Our objective has been to slow down the rate of infection while we’re still keeping as much of Australia working and operating as we can. I know that we are in a very, very critical time period at the moment. That’s why these additional measures have been put in place. These are to keep Australia running, keep Australia working, at the same time as keeping Australians safe. And we’re saying to Australians stay home. Really just go out for work, if you can't work from home; go out for your essential shopping, but otherwise stay at home. But there are some things that we need to keep running. You’ve talked about ventilators, personal protective equipment is important, we are ramping up manufacturing of that now. We’ve doubled our capacity for the production of face masks. We’re importing more respirators, we’re looking at how we can change non-invasive respirators to the invasive respirators that we need. This work is happening now to keep people safe. What we are saying though, to all Australians, is please stay at home unless you need to go to work or you need to go out for essential shopping. That is how we’re going to reduce the risk, how we're going to flatten the curve and we're going to keep more people alive.

Natalie Barr: The message is clear. Karen Andrews, thanks for your time.