A voice of dissent has emerged among the high-level group of doctors plotting Australia’s response to the coronavirus crisis.
Dr Brett Sutton, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, has increasingly signalled he doesn’t agree with the Federal government’s approach in stopping the spread of COVID-19.
He tweeted this week that the nation should ‘#gohard #gofast’ against the outbreak after Morrison government official described that as a different school of thought this week.
Dr Sutton has been singled out by one of the country’s medical chiefs as having a lone ‘dissenting view’ during meetings of the Morrison government’s emergency medical committee.
Dr Sutton has described his advice to the Australian Health Protection Principals Committee (AHPPC) as ‘frank and fearless’.
Dr Sutton sits in on regular AHPPC meetings along with the top doctors of other states and territories and the Morrison government’s chief officials.
Their formal advice to the country’s leaders has been published several times a week throughout the outbreak.
But their frank discussions about the escalating outbreak are behind closed doors.
A sliver of what is actually being said in those meetings was revealed by the Federal government’s deputy chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, during a live TV interview on Thursday night.
Dr Kelly told the ABC’s 7.30 program there was a ‘difference of opinion’ whether Australia goes ‘hard and fast or should we have a proportionate response that is scaled over time’.
Dr Kelly said he and the other members of the AHPPC were all for a ‘proportional, scalable and sustainable approach’ – except for one, Dr Sutton.
‘At the moment a proportional, scalable and sustainable approach is what myself and my colleagues in the AHPPC have been advising governments …. other than the Victorian chief health officer (Dr Sutton) who has a dissenting view’.’
As the country’s confirmed infection total topped 3.050, Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, has indicated the state will push ahead with ‘stage three’ restrictions on public gatherings soon to encourage social distancing. New South Wales, the worst affected state, has signalled it may follow Victoria down that path.
Already, bars, clubs, restaurants and cafes (except takeaway), gyms, spas and beauty salons are among a lengthy listed of venues forced to close nationwide. Weddings are restricted to five people and funerals to just 10 and school holidays will be brought forward in Victoria to begin the end of today.
Daily Mail Australia approached Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services for comment.
At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Dr Sutton said whether now is the time to ‘go hard’ is a ‘matter for the national cabinet’.
He said that government body has to consider a lot of expert opinions and information.
‘It’s not just my opinion. I provided it, as I say, with frank and fearless advice, but there are a whole lot of inputs that need to be considered’.
Dr Sutton said Victorians weren’t doing enough ‘to my satisfaction’ to follow the coronavirus guidelines.
But he did say that Australia could choose a different path to other coronavirus-ravaged countries such as Italy and United States.
‘The positive here is we can make a difference.
‘We can actually not go down the pathway that many countries in Europe and the US are heading down – a catastrophic pathway.
‘We can actually go down a different fate for ourselves. And we should.’