Australia Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said a pandemic was 'in the back of my mind' when he took job

01:06  03 june  2020
01:06  03 june  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton © Quinn Rooney/Getty Images Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton When Brett Sutton became Victoria's Chief Health Officer 18 months ago, he had the possibility of a pandemic — which would change the way we live — in the back of his mind.

But that is not to say he expected it. Pandemics occur, on average, every 25 years.

"I knew pandemics [are] absolutely the province of public health physicians and chief health officers," he told ABC Melbourne's Raf Epstein.

"You don't necessarily expect it in your tenure … but it was in the back of my mind that it could come across my desk while I was in the role."

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He has repeatedly said that no one could have seen the effects of the coronavirus coming.Credit Facing the likelihood of a real pandemic , the group needed to decide when to abandon He instead reverted to his traditional political playbook in the midst of a public health calamity, squandering vital

He said pandemics may become more frequent, like every 10 years, because the risk grew with environmental degradation and "our human-animal interaction".

Brett Sutton has been the medical face of the pandemic in Victoria, often starring at the daily coronavirus press conferences alongside Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos.

He steered the state through the worst of the pandemic which, in the early stages, was predicted to be catastrophic.

Millions of dollars were poured into the state's hospital system to ensure it was prepared with new intensive care beds opened in new facilities across the state.

Millions and millions of items of personal protection gear were hunted down around the world at the peak of the pandemic to keep the medical staff safe.

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Thankfully, a lot of those resources were not needed.

With 19 deaths and 1,663 cases of coronavirus, Victoria has escaped the worst of the pandemic which has punished Italy, the UK and the United States.

Professor Sutton said Australia was sufficiently prepared to manage the pandemic "in the terrific way we have".

But everyone forgets the role of public health in good times.

"My hope is always that public health has the kind of focus and resourcing and development in terms of skills and the people available for it, not just for pandemics, but for all of the other things that public health makes not happen," he said.

"It's when things go horribly wrong, that's when people look at public health … but we work really hard to ensure things largely don't happen and I think we've been successful in this case."

But the work is far from over.

Managing the risk as people return to work

Professor Sutton still has a lot on his plate: the month of June will be spent reviewing the current restrictions and working out how to manage the risks going forward.

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Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said Victoria ' s stage-three restrictions would be lifted gradually Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said Victoria ' s Professor Sutton hopes other things, such as restaurants and pubs, may be able to go back to normal if testing and hygiene measures are in place.

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One of those challenges is getting people back to work. How they get there is going to be a big part of the problem.

The aim is to keep public transport operating at about 15 per cent of capacity to control the spread of coronavirus, but Professor Sutton admits that will not always be possible.

"But other jurisdictions are managing public transport at higher densities than that," he said.

He said staggered start times and having people take "alternate means" of transport when you can will also help.

"We'll obviously make recommendations about the times that people go so that the very peak hours for people on public transport isn't so much of a crush."

While acknowledging the number of cases being diagnosed daily in Victoria is in the double digits, Professor Sutton Victoria was headed in the right direction.

"We're not looking for more cases — we're looking to end this in just the same way everyone else has," he said.

Click here for up-to-date coverage of the COVID-19 crisis on the Microsoft News app — available on Windows 10, iOS and Android

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