WA, Commonwealth deploy staff to assist Victorian health response

By Shannon Jenkins

Wednesday July 1, 2020

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Western Australian government former chief health officer Professor Tarun Weeramanthri has been deployed to Victoria to assist with the state’s rising number of COVID-19 cases.

The WA government on Tuesday said Weeramanthri has been seconded to the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services for an initial four-week period.

He is expected to assist with the operational and strategic management of the state’s public health response, provide leadership for government and media briefings, and give operational oversight of outbreak management and contact tracing work.

Professor Tarun Weeramanthri

His role would also likely include a rostered period of relief for the Victorian chief health officer Professor Brett Sutton, and deputy chief health officer Dr Annaliese van Diemen.

Weeramanthri has been assisting the WA Department of Premier and Cabinet in a health liaison role during the pandemic. He has previously served as assistant director general, public and Aboriginal health, in the WA Department of Health, and was chief health officer for the Northern Territory government from 2004 to 2008.

Contact tracing teams from the WA Department of Health are also remotely assisting Victoria in establishing key information about cases and identifying close contacts.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said his government has offered additional support if needed.

“It’s because of everyone’s hard work across Western Australia, that means we are in a position to provide support to Victoria, in their time of need,” he said.

“The evolving situation in Victoria is a timely reminder of how easily the virus can start spreading. We all have a personal responsibility here in WA to practice good hygiene and keep following the health guidelines, now more than ever.”

Meanwhile, the federal government has agreed to deploy 800 Commonwealth workers to Melbourne, including 100 managers to support community engagement in hotspots, 500 staff to form public engagement and door-knocking teams, and 200 clinical staff to undertake testing at fixed sites.

Victoria recorded its 14th day of double-digit cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, with a total of 64 cases.

Premier Daniel Andrews said 17,416 tests were conducted on Monday, with more than 93,000 tests taken over the past three days. Across the 10 hotspot suburbs, 37,000 doors have been knocked on.

He announced the implementation of stage 3 stay-at-home orders across a number of at-risk suburbs from Wednesday night until July 29.

People living in those suburbs would only be allowed to leave their houses for work or school, care or care-giving, daily exercise, and for food and other essential items.

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