Minister Butler press conference at Parliament House – 22 June 2022

Media event date: 

22 June 2022

Date published: 

23 June 2022

Audience: 

General public

MARK BUTLER, MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE:

Thank you everyone. I wanted to come and provide you with an update on the Government’s actions in relation to COVID. But before I do that, can I just put forward my thanks to the Indonesian Health and Finance ministers for hosting the G20 Health Ministers Meeting over the last 48 hours and the Joint Health and Finance Ministers Meeting very late last night, the Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, and I attended. The G20 over the last little while, particularly under Indonesia’s chairpersonship, has shown itself not just to be a wonderful vehicle for financial and economic stability, but also a vehicle to discuss the ways in which we’re able to improve our response globally to the current pandemic, but also importantly, improve our preparedness and pandemic responses in the future. And last night, Jim Chalmers and I were able, very late in the evening, to announce that Australia would support a finance intermediary fund, a fifth, which has been proposed by Indonesia, supported by the United States, by the European Union, obviously by Indonesia itself, and I think we’ll find over the next little while a range of other members of the G20. This fund will improve the flow of finance, particularly to low and middle income countries dealing with pandemics who might not be able to mobilise a pandemic response in the way in which richer countries can do. This is a testament to the chairpersonship of the G20 under Indonesia over the past little while, and Jim Chalmers has indicated he will be attending the G20 Finance Ministers Meeting in Bali next month. And obviously, the Prime Minister has also indicated he will be attending the G20 Leaders Meeting in November as well.

I did, though, want to provide an update on the actions of the new government in relation to the ongoing pandemic. I want to say at the outset that it’s our view that Australians responded magnificently to the unprecedented challenges that were thrown at them by this once-in-a-century pandemic. When we look around the world, I think we can be proud that Australians complied wonderfully with some really tough but necessary public health orders that were put in place over a very extended period of time, particularly in the two largest states, in the ACT, where they were extended waves over the course of 2020 and 2021, but the general population more broadly. Australians also were wonderful in rolling up their sleeves once the vaccines finally arrived in the country to receive both doses, and Australia proudly has some of the highest rates of two doses of the vaccine in the world. Australians, I think as you look around the country, are now enjoying the rewards of that hard work. They’re back at work on the job. Kids are back at school where they should be. People are back at the footy, even if your team isn’t winning as often as you’d like them to, as is the case with mine. They’re back seeing family and friends, in many cases not having seen them if they’d been living overseas for many, many months or even years. But although we’re clearly through the worst of this pandemic, I do want to say that we still face very real challenges this winter. There are still, as everyone knows, very high case numbers of COVID and concerns. As you will see from state modelling being released over the last couple of days, the case numbers might even climb again as we see a higher prevalence of the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants of Omicron.

Now, for most, this illness is now a mild to moderate illness, which causes people to have to isolate, which is obviously causing quite substantial economic dislocation in many workplaces and industry, but for most, it is a mild to moderate illness. For some though, we have to recognise it is still a very serious illness. More than one in 20 hospital beds in Australia right now, almost 3000 hospital beds, are filled with COVID patients, and it’s been the case that way for some weeks already. And on average, tragically, more than 300 Australians every single week are losing their life to this illness. We’re still seeing enormous loss of life, enormous dislocation, and massive pressure on our health and our hospital systems. On top of that, as we all know, influenza has returned to the country as well. Now, I’m determined to increase our efforts to ensure that we get through this winter as safely as we possibly can. And I intend to do that in three areas, as I’ve indicated before. Firstly, to improve the uptake of booster shots, a third dose or a fourth dose for older Australians; secondly, in relation to aged care; and thirdly, in relation to the uptake of some of the wonderful new oral treatments that are available particularly for vulnerable Australians.

Now, on the first point, we are determined to increase the uptake of third and fourth doses across the population. The health advice here is very clear. You are not fully protected against the current variant unless you have at least a third dose of the vaccine. There are currently around six million Australians who are eligible for their third booster dose but have not yet had it. Over the past several months, I have been calling, while in Opposition and through the campaign, for a stronger information campaign promoting the crucial importance of that third and fourth dose. The fourth dose obviously being for older Australians or those who have compromised immune systems. I have to say the former government’s approach, and I said this at the time, simply lacked the energy here. And yet again, as we’ve seen time and time again in the pandemic, some states have had to step in and fill that gap. You see TV advertising campaigns promoting the importance of booster shots in a number of different jurisdictions now.

Today I’m launching a new information campaign to do just that, to reinvigorate our efforts to get through this winter safely. Our central message will be to take on winter. There are three elements to the campaign. The first element of the campaign will be directed at the general population. And as I said, it will encourage people to take up those booster shots, to get up to date with your vaccinations. And I’ll repeat this message. If you have only had two doses of the vaccine, you are not fully protected. You are not up to date with your vaccination and you should get out and get your third dose, or if you’re over 65 or have compromised immunity, have your fourth dose. And while you’re at it, you should get your flu shot as well.

The second element of the campaign will be targeted at First Nations communities. Right through this pandemic, we have seen a gap in First Nations vaccination rates compared to the general population. At points, it has approached almost 30 per cent, a gap that is particularly concerning, given that we know that many Indigenous Australians are particularly vulnerable to severe disease, including COVID. There is still a gap between the general population double dose rate and Indigenous Australians double dose rate. It’s running now at about 15 to 20 per cent and I fear that gap is substantially higher for a third or booster dose. So there is a targeted campaign focused on First Nations communities that will promote the importance of booster doses for those Australians. I also want to point out that later this week, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee on the COVID Response will be meeting with Assistant Minister McCarthy, who is the Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health and Indigenous Australia more broadly, and I’ll be seeking their advice on any further action we can take to continue to close that vaccination gap.

And the third and last element of the campaign is to lift vaccination rates among our young children, 5 to 11-year-olds. Those vaccines have been available, approved by the TGA and the advisory committee on vaccines, ATAGI, now for almost six months. But still, the vaccination rate of 5 to 11-year-olds lags at about 40 per cent for two doses. Compare that to the double dose rate for 12 to 15-year-olds, their older brothers and sisters, that is as high as 80 per cent. This campaign will encourage and remind parents to consider getting their five- to 11-year-olds vaccinated, getting two doses at the moment of the vaccine to protect them as well. The first two elements of the campaign launch tomorrow, they’ll be seen electronically, they’ll be seen online, and in outdoor advertising as well. And the third element of targeting parents to consider vaccinating their kids aged five to 11 will be launched next week.

I’ve also talked about the need to lift our efforts in aged care. I think all Australians know all too well just how vulnerable aged care residents are to COVID. We saw some of the worst moments, the worst periods of this pandemic, play out in aged care facilities right back until 2020. Right now, there are hundreds of aged care facilities in Australia that have existing COVID outbreaks. Hundreds of new cases being reported almost every day among aged care residents, and tragically many dozens of aged care residents are dying every single week of COVID. Now the sector, the aged care sector, has done magnificently in getting the first three doses of the vaccine into the arms of aged care residents. The third or booster dose rate among aged care residents is magnificently high, it’s over 95 per cent. But I have to say, the fourth dose, which health authorities have advised is crucial in protecting against Omicron for older Australians, the fourth dose rate is lagging. It is currently only running at about 54 per cent, which is behind the general population fourth dose rate for over 65, that’s running at about 55 per cent. I’ve said this publicly now for some weeks, we have to do better. We have to get that rate up, and protect the most vulnerable Australians that we have in this community who are living in an aged care facility.

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Already the Aged Care Minister Anika Wells and I have written to aged care facilities reminding them of the importance of making sure that vaccine operations are put in place in their facilities. And I have asked the department to call facilities individually to schedule in-reach teams that are contracted, paid for by taxpayers, to provide this valuable service; vaccinating and protecting Aged Care Residents. I’ve asked the Department to provide me with regular reports on how that is going now. In some cases, these in-reach teams will visit aged care facilities and be able to provide vaccination services to a certain number of those aged care residents. But some others might not yet be eligible, because it hasn’t yet been four months since they had their booster dose. I will be encouraging and expecting the department to arrange revisits and new visits to those same facilities to mop up the group of residents who haven’t yet got their fourth dose. It is that important. We are seeing dozens of older Australians who worked hard, paid their taxes, raised their families, and who are dying in large numbers of this disease still every week. We have to do better. And I will continue to ask my department about whatever effort we can make.

Lastly, I want to talk about treatments. We need to get a better uptake of the wonderful new oral treatments that now exist, are on the market, are in our warehouses, to treat COVID. Now, up until relatively recently, people might be aware, the treatments that were there to prevent the most severe disease or even death was largely intravenous. It was largely IV treatment that would have to be administered in hospital. Over the last little while we’ve had approved by the TGA and by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, so these treatments are now on the PBS, available at very cheap prices. Two tablets, two oral treatments, that can be prescribed by a GP, delivered by a pharmacy, and taken very easily by patients who are particularly vulnerable for severe disease. They provide strong protection against severe disease and death, and they should be being considered by GPs, by older Australians, by Australians with compromised immunity to protect them against the worst possible effects of COVID. At the moment we have 1.3 million doses of these treatments available in our warehouses. They are on the PBS, as I’ve said, but only 50,000 doses so far have been delivered.

Our research indicates that the vast bulk of the Australian population are not aware that these treatments exist. Well, my message to older Australians who have health conditions or Australians with compromised immunity: you should have a COVID plan, you should have a plan of what you will do if you receive a positive COVID test. And you should have discussed that plan with your GP. As soon as you receive a positive test to COVID, you should talk to your GP, find them, make a telehealth appointment, and ask whether you should be prescribed one of these oral treatments. You can have an e-script sent by your doctor electronically to the local pharmacy, have these treatments picked up, and you should start taking those tablets as soon as possible, in the first day or two after you test positive. They will provide very, very strong protection against severe disease that might see you end up in hospital, or even worse, see you succumb to the disease fatally. And clearly more needs to be done to improve awareness of these treatments. The former government did the right thing, went out and ordered them. They now exist in our warehouses. They’re on the PBS. They’re available at a very affordable price for people who have underlying health conditions over a certain age. So I’ve asked for advice about what else we can do to improve that awareness. And next week when I meet with my state colleagues here in Canberra at the end of next week, I’ll also be talking to them about what information can be easily sent to people as they receive their positive COVID tests about the availability of these treatments.

We still have a tough winter ahead of us. Hospitals are under very real pressure, the health system more broadly. As I’ve said, COVID cases are still with us, leading to vast numbers of people in hospital and hundreds of people dying every week. And on top of that, we have flu as well. But with these measures being taken, I’m confident that we can get through winter safely and get into a much better season. Thanks very much. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, how many of the 6 million Aussies eligible for a booster and the residents in aged care do you believe are not actually getting those jabs because they’ve previously had COVID? And can you confirm what the advice is for people who have had COVID, how long should they have actually been waiting before getting those shots?

BUTLER:

That’s right. People are advised for some weeks not to get a shot after they’ve had COVID. And obviously that will account for some of that population. As I’ve said, we know that going out to aged care facilities, people are either not eligible because they’ve not passed the four months since they got the booster or they’ve had COVID within that 12-week period. So we’re accounting for that. But that doesn’t account for the 46 per cent of aged care residents who haven’t yet had their fourth shot, doesn’t account for the full 6 million. I don’t have, I don’t think we do have, the precise figures, but clearly that is a measure. We know that people should abide by that advice, take that period after you might have had COVID. But we do know that there is an increased reinfection rate being seen, particularly as BA4 and BA5 start to become more prevalent in the community. Just because you have had COVID does not mean you are not going to get it again. We encourage people, after that period of time has elapsed, to be up to date, to get fully vaccinated. And now that involves getting a third or, if you’re an older Australian, getting a fourth dose.

JOURNALIST:

Two questions. Could you see a moment where we make that fourth dose more widely available to the general population outside the specific groups you talked about there? And I guess a related one, the previous government only had Federal mandates around vaccination in a certain number of workplace settings, aged care, that sort of thing. Could you see that list mandates being expanded on the areas the Federal Government looks after?

BUTLER:

No, I can’t see right now a moment that would see mandates expand. I think, if anything, the direction is the other way, that mandates are starting to be relaxed. Obviously, these are measures that are driven by public health advice in particular. I don’t have any before me that would see that direction change.

In relation to fourth doses more broadly, as you know over the last couple of weeks the advisory committee on vaccines, ATAGI, provided advice, considered some information before them that maybe fourth doses should be provided to people under the age of 65. So currently the age threshold is 65. In some other countries that age threshold is a little lower – I think, for example, in the US it might be as low as 50. But across the world I think there is a general acceptance that there’s no evidence right now that the fourth dose is particularly called for for younger people who don’t have compromised immunity, that the benefits of the vaccine for younger people do not warrant the decision that they have a fourth dose made available to them. I think ATAGI has made it clear they’ll continue to monitor these developments over time, but at the moment the advice is that the proper age threshold is 65, and we’ve accepted that advice.

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JOURNALIST:

Minister, can I ask you about the hospital funding? As you were saying, you were speaking to your- you’re going to be speaking to your state and territory counterparts next week. What attitude do you bring to those discussions, given that they’re wanting 50/50 extended basically forever? And some of us would remember that Kevin Rudd had this- tackled this issue when he was Prime Minister. One of the solutions, if my memory’s correct, was that he talked about having a 50/50 split of the growth funding as opposed to the current. Is that one sort of- what attitude are you brining to this?

BUTLER:

I do remember those discussions. I was Kevin’s Parliamentary Secretary for Health at the time. Ultimately, hospital funding agreements were settled under Prime Minister Gillard, and the broad parameters of those funding agreements were, after a period when Tony Abbott tried to junk them entirely, were continued under Prime Minister Turnbull, Prime Minister Morrison. There’s a current funding agreement that runs from 2020 to 2025 which essentially preserves the fundamental elements of the agreement first reached between Prime Minister Gillard and the then state governments back then. As I said, the agreement runs until 2025.

The other day, or the other evening and then the following day on a Friday, the Prime Minister, as you know, met with all of the Premiers and Chief Ministers, and a very substantial part of their discussion was around hospitals’ funding. They agreed to extend the current COVID National Partnership Agreement that was reached early in 2020 to beyond 30 September, which is when it was currently due to expire, until the end of this calendar year – so, the end of December. That provides for cost sharing of hospital admissions related to COVID; so COVID patients who end up in hospital, cost sharing for things like PCR testing, a whole range of other measures that are particularly associated with the pandemic. And I think you will have seen the commentary from Premiers, Liberal and Labor alike, that they welcomed that agreement-

JOURNALIST:

[Interrupts] Yeah, I know that they accepted that. But they want the 50/50 to be extended. I’m asking about what your attitude is in the post-COVID world, where of course the Premiers and Chief Ministers are now [indistinct]?

BUTLER:

And in addition to- the second one in relation to an extension of the National Partnership Agreement, it was agreed that the head of- the new head of PM&C, Prime Minister and Cabinet, Glyn Davis, would work with first secretaries, so the head of premier departments, effectively on a health funding review. And we look forward to that work processing and being reported back to Prime Minister and the Premiers.

JOURNALIST:

Are you sympathetic-

BUTLER:

[Interrupts] As a Health Minister, can I say this? That a line minister in a portfolio like Health likes nothing more than an indication from his or her Prime Minister and Premiers that they want to deal with this issue. That reflects the importance attached to the state of our health and hospital system as seen through the eyes of the premiers and the Prime Minister.

JOURNALIST:

[Talks over] But I think that- you know, with the three-month extension, there’s obviously been an expression of goodwill from the Commonwealth. But again, I want to know what your instinct is on this? Is 45/55 as good as it gets when it comes to the Commonwealth?

BUTLER:

My response to that is that there is- first of all, there is an existing agreement that runs from 2020 until 2025. It’s one that all of the state and territories signed onto with the former government. It’s one that the current- the new government intends to respect and adhere to. But I think there is a recognition from the meeting last week by the Prime Minister and all of the Premiers and Chief Ministers that they want their most senior bureaucrats, the heads of their first ministers’ departments, to have a look at health funding more broadly. And I’ll leave them to do that work. I’m delighted as a Health Minister that health issues are getting the sort of attention that clearly they did from the first minister’s meeting last week, and the work that Glyn Davis has been asked to lead.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, what does your modelling show you about the rates of cases and deaths over the next few months, and particularly when they will drop off? And you propose to keep the Morrison infrastructure on Operation COVID Shield and General Frewen in place for the rest of the vaccination rollout?

BUTLER:

On the second point, I already had one discussion with General Frewen, who I think is just- I think everyone would agree has done a remarkable job in helping us through a very difficult period where Australia was effectively running last in the OECD in terms of our vaccine uptake to get to a very strong position, in terms of the task that he was allocated by his boss, the then Prime Minister. So I have nothing but the greatest of respect for General Frewen. We’ve talked about what happens now, given that really the jobs that he was expressly asked to do by the former Prime Minister has largely been done and what his work will be, and I’ll continue those discussions, and we’ll make announcements in due course.

As for modelling about what’s going to happen into the future, I think what you’ll see- I know there was an announcement, for example, over the last 24 hours by the South Australian Government. I think you’re seeing that governments are starting to try to come to grips with the impact of BA.4 and BA.5 sub variants of Omicron. They’re starting to become dominant in the eastern states. They’re spreading into states like South Australia. We’re still learning about what that means, both in terms of the transmissibility of those new sub variants, but also what they might mean for reinfection rates – you know, how many people who might have had one of the earliest sub variants of Omicron will be susceptible to reinfection from BA.4 or BA.5. So I think the answer, honest answer, is we don’t have precise modelling yet about those things. My focus right now is what measures can we put in place to get us through this winter period where you’ve got the coexistence of flu and still very high rates of COVID impacting our hospital systems. How can we put in place measures to get us through winter as safely as possible?

Look, this pandemic is still going to throw curveballs at us, and we need to make sure we’re ready to deal with them, that we’re working with our state colleagues to understand what’s happening with the virus at a state level. We’re working with our partners internationally to understand what’s happening there. I will have more to say about that, but I think we’re still coming to grips with really what these new sub variants of Omicron mean for the next few months. And I think if you read the international press, that’s happening overseas as well.

JOURNALIST:

On Sri Lanka, one of the major consequences of this economic crisis is a buckling health system. The Government pledged a lot of money, and part of it was for supporting health systems. As Health Minister, do you know exactly where that money is going and how immediate will it be?

BUTLER:

As you know, Minister O’Neil has been visiting Sri Lanka over the last little while, and I think it would be proper to wait until she returns and is able to report properly on her discussions with those authorities.

JOURNALIST:

Can you provide more of a timeline on when children under five might be eligible for a vaccine? And also masks on flights – is there any extra advice that might be coming about any changes to that?

BUTLER:

I’ll deal with the first, first. I’ve said publicly this is moving quite fast, the question of vaccines for under-five year olds. The FDA in the United States, which is their equivalent of our Therapeutic Goods Administration, approved the Moderna vaccine for under-fives only in the last little while, like the last couple of weeks. Like happens here, that approval then goes to another body. In that case, the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, similar to our ATAGI vaccine advisory group, to consider whether that approval should be translated into practice, so it actually should be given to under-fives. That was given a couple of days ago. So the CDC has now approved the Moderna vaccine for under-fives. I’m not sure, I haven’t checked over the last 24 hours, but I think the expectation is we will see that vaccine being given to under-five-year-olds in the US, if it’s not already today, over the next couple of days. What you’ve seen through this pandemic is a sequence where the vaccine companies apply to the American authorities generally first, and then flows into other authorities like the Europeans, the EMA, and the TGA here in Australia. As I think I’ve said publicly, Moderna has an application for their under-five vaccine before the TGA now. It is being considered by the TGA. The timeframe for that being completed is a matter for the TGA, and properly so. They have to be allowed to do their work according to their statutory mandate. I think generally people expect that would be a matter of some weeks for the TGA to do its work and then for that work to be considered by ATAGI. Now whether that’s four, six, eight weeks, I can’t tell you. But I think what we’ve seen over the course of this pandemic is a high degree of community confidence that that those authorities are taking the time they need, not according to what we as politicians or you as media might want to write as stories. They’re taking the time they need. But my sense is it will take over the next several weeks.

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So, the question of masks, well, there are two questions here. There are international flights, and there are domestic flights. I’ll deal with the first. International flights are essentially a matter for destination ports. So generally the question of whether masks are mandated on an international flight will be determined according to what the policy is at the destination port. That makes sense. The destination port will have a view about whether they want several hundred passengers disembarking from a plane having worn masks or whether they’re not particularly fussed if they didn’t wear a mask. As you will know, international flights going to a number of key ports for us, the UK, the US now don’t need to wear a mask, because that is the policy of those countries: the UK and the US. It is still the policy here for incoming flights to wear masks. I don’t have any advice from public health authorities right now that that policy should change. I might get that relatively soon, but I don’t have that before me now. The second question is domestic flights – and those are, just being clear, the international flights question is a matter for the Commonwealth. And so I will be receiving advice at some point, I imagine, about whether that current position should change. Domestic flights is a matter for state authorities. The fact that masks are mandated on flights from Sydney to Melbourne, for example, reflects public health orders in place at a state level. The AHPPC, which is all of the Chief Medical Officers only over the last week or two, considered whether or not those mask mandates should be lifted. They advised that they shouldn’t be. They should not be. They did advise that the mask mandate at airports could be lifted. And as you know, from last Saturday, the mask mandate in airports no longer is in force. Now, again, I imagine that that is something, as I think AHPPC made clear, that will continue to be monitored. And if the public health advice changes, then I imagine ministers will come together and consider that. And I’ll say this, that if advice comes to me as the Commonwealth Minister about lifting the mask mandate on incoming flights, it would be my intention to consult with state ministers. Obviously, particularly the state ministers in jurisdictions where you have incoming flights from overseas. It would be my preference that this was done at a national level, that these questions were resolved nationally. I don’t think anyone wants to see a position where flights from one city to another have a mask mandate, but one city to a third city might not have a mandate. So again, this is, I’m sure, something that I’ll continue to discuss with my state colleagues.

JOURNALIST:

Are you still planning a Royal Commission into the pandemic? I ask because on RN you seem to backtrack a bit.

BUTLER:

No, my language on that has been quite consistent right through the last several months, particularly, I think, before even the Senate committee, chaired by Katy Gallagher, recommended a Royal Commission. And my language about that has been that it would be unthinkable, I think, for there not to be a Royal Commission or some other similar very deep inquiry into what’s gone on over the last two and a half years on the expenditure of money, the enormous dislocation, the mental and physical distress that is going to last for years to come. We know this will have a very long tail. And the huge loss of life surely requires us to have a very deep look at what we did well and what we didn’t…

JOURNALIST:

[Talks over] So it might not be a Royal Commission?

BUTLER:

We haven’t made that decision. I think the Prime Minister’s been clear about that as well. If it’s not a Royal Commission, it would be something very like it. But we don’t think that now is the time to have that discussion and make that decision. As I’ve said over the course of the last little while in front of you, we are still very much in this pandemic. We’re at a very different phase, but we have thousands of people in hospital. We have hundreds of people still dying every week. I think the critical thing will be to determine the time to have that discussion. And we need to be through the pandemic so we’re not busy with the response, but we’re able to focus on looking back and learning the lesson of what we did well and what we didn’t do so well. And I think you’ll find that across the world.

So let me be clear [indistinct] we are still very committed to doing this, but we do not think that now is the time to make that decision.

JOURNALIST:

Just on hospitals, again, if I may. One of the other issues, I guess, structurally that the states are very keen to fix is how many beds are occupied by folks who should probably rightly be somewhere else within the NDIS or should be in aged care. This whole sort of provider of last resort phenomenon that happens in hospitals, is that going to be something that you talk to your state counterparts about? And is there a sort of- is there going to be a strategy coming from the Federal Government that lowering those numbers, NDIS, aged, in hospitals is like a key priority of yours?

BUTLER:

That was expressly mentioned by the Prime Minister and the Premiers and Chief Ministers as something they’ve asked their heads of department to look at. So there’ll be a number of things that Glyn Davis and his state and territory colleagues will be examining around health funding. But expressly within that was the place of NDIS participants, and particularly residential aged care facility residents in hospitals right now. We know this is not particularly a new thing. We know that in some cases, those Australians can be in hospital for not just weeks, but in some cases many, many months. It’s not a criticism of them. They have no other place probably to be. But yes, that expressly is something that Glyn Davis and his colleagues will be considering and reporting back to first ministers for National Cabinet.

JOURNALIST:

Just on COVID for winter again. You spoke a few times about what measures we need to sort of get through winter, and you talk about vaccination, talk about treatments. And this is why I asked the question about the mandates earlier. Do you see any place for any other type of measures like we’ve seen in the last two years for this winter? I mean, I think the Prime Minister said no lockdowns and that sort of thing. But would you see a place for, for instance, density limits at nightclubs and festivals, and any other one that’s short of lockdown. Can you see any future where that is a thing we would consider through this winter?

BUTLER:

No, I don’t think that is foreseeable, and I don’t think public health authorities are suggesting that that would be the case, that there’s any likelihood of advice around those old public health measures that were such a feature of life through 2020 and 2021 in particular. I think Australians are glad to see that in the rear vision mirror, but there are measures that we do continue to encourage Australians to take to keep our community safe and to get through winter safely. But I don’t see that in the future.

JOURNALIST:

Does that include the reintroduction of masks in some places?

BUTLER:

Again, I don’t see it, haven’t read any public health advice that that a reintroduction of mask mandates is on anyone’s agenda. So that’s, I think, a pretty commonly held position across the country.

Thanks, everyone.

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