Minister’s Statement

I rise to update the house on how the Andrews Labor government is taking every measure to ensure that the Victorian community is kept safe and informed with the latest information following the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak.

From the start of the outbreak in China, Victoria has been preparing our health system in case it did come to our shores. On 10 January the Victorian chief health officer put out an alert telling doctors to be watchful for patients who had travelled to Wuhan and presented with fever and respiratory symptoms. On 20 January my department set up an incident management team, and the next day it met to coordinate the public health and sector response. There have been a series of alerts and advice to both medical professionals and the community. As members would be aware, on 25 January Victoria and Australia diagnosed their first confirmed case.

Since 26 January Victorians seeking medical advice have been able to call a dedicated public hotline that also has a Chinese Mandarin translator service available and is staffed by registered nurses to provide advice 24/7. The Victorian government has also coordinated the distribution of 90 000 P2 respirators to general practices in collaboration with primary health networks. The department also undertakes careful contact tracing in order to identify any close contacts to confirmed cases and is in daily contact with the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, Communicable Diseases Network Australia, the national incident room and our other government counterparts.

I wish to assure everyone that the Victorian government is taking this issue very seriously. You do not have to take my word for it. Minister Hunt recently acknowledged Victoria’s contribution, saying:

As we look around the states, we know that those three states that have had confirmed cases have been especially cooperative.

Victoria, through their reference laboratory, has helped lead the nation.

I want to congratulate the Doherty Institute for its groundbreaking discovery growing the virus, which will help develop a vaccine and hopefully provide a cure for the world more quickly.

I am also pleased to advise the house that one of the four Victorian confirmed cases was discharged from hospital yesterday and has now returned home. All Victorian confirmed cases are either stable in hospital or isolated at home. We will keep working to ensure our health system is well prepared to manage this virus outbreak and informing the community about the latest advice to ensure that everyone is able to stay safe. I want to particularly acknowledge the incredible work of our chief health officer and his team.