Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 16 DECEMBER 2020

Premier Peter Gutwein

Good afternoon everyone.

I have Doctor Veitch with me and the Minister for Arts, who will make some comments in a moment.

Firstly, I want to say it is hard to believe we are just a little over a week until Christmas.  I just wanted to say to those in the room who have been on this journey with me, I hope you have a good Christmas and you get some down time as well.

Last week saw further restrictions relaxed in Tasmania in line with public health guidelines, including dancing, and being able to stand at bars to drink indoors, as well as an increase in gathering numbers at home.

I know that these have been very well received, because I have received quite a bit of correspondence in respect of these matters and I’m pleased Tasmanians will have an enjoyable festive season. I would make the point to please continue to follow the rules, it is so important.

During the past week Public Health officials have worked through COVID-safe guidelines to increase capacity at venues and theatres, and Minister for the Arts, Elise Archer, will say more about that, as well as further measures we will put in place to provide support to the industry, so they have confidence to take forward shows in the early part of next year.

In addition to changes to theatre and cinema seated capacity, I just want to speak about outdoor sporting events for a moment. The way that the BBL has been managed is outstanding with the two venues and I know people have really enjoyed the opportunity to see the Hurricanes in action, albeit last night I must admit wasn’t quite what we were expecting and I did expect more from Merideth, having pumped him up so much the other day.

From the 1st of January outdoor sporting events will be able to move to 75% of seated capacity

which will be welcome news for those looking to hold events in larger stadiums.

The Attorney will outline our plans for theatres and cinemas in a moment.

I do want to speak about Church and other religious services which will take place over the Christmas period. Public Health has  approved Church Services to go beyond their current density cap to 75% seated capacity for Christmas and other religious services commencing this Sunday, with an exemption to remain in place to allow this to occur until the following Sunday the 27th of December.

We will then review those arrangements and have a look at matters moving forward.  One of the challenges with Church and religious services is that not in every case is there an individual seat, or fixed seating in every Church or hall utilised.

So, these are matters which need to be worked through regarding the longer terms operation and Public Health will look into that early in the new year.

I wanted to also provide an update on the international seasonal workers and returning Australians from overseas who are quarantining in Tasmania currently.

In terms of seasonal workers I can confirm that as there were no positive cases identified in the second round of testing of seasonal workers from Timor Leste, they are due to finish their quarantine on Thursday morning and in the spirit of those who would go to work on our harvest, I believe they’ll be picked up at 5:30am to enjoy their first day of work on Thursday, supporting our important harvest season.

The next flight of seasonal workers will be from Tonga on December 18th, and there has not been to my knowledge one recorded case of COVID in Tonga. But again, they will go through the normal quarantine process and will be tested as per our rules and conditions.

Returning Australians quarantining in our hotels are currently having their second round of testing, which is almost completed, and I understand at this stage there have been no positive tests in terms of those returning Australians.

Subject to a negative test result, they will be able to return to their next destination from Sunday which will be the end of their 14 day quarantine period.

The next repatriation flight of returning Australians is moving forward a little bit, and rather than returning before Christmas, will be on January 8th, again from India. The simple reason for this is to align with AUSMAT resources and provide our staff with some respite over the Christmas period.

I do want to say to all those who have supported our seasonal workers, noting that we have another flight coming in, but also the returning Australians – I want to thank them for their efforts to date.

In terms of another matter, there is much discussion right now on vaccine roll outs, with processes well underway in places such as the UK and US, albeit under emergency arrangements in the UK.

The timeline for Australia is dependent on when a vaccine is approved in Australia, and as the Prime Minister outlined yesterday that it will be in the first quarter of next year, more than likely in March.

The roll-out plan we have discussed at National Cabinet is the process of being finalised and we will have more to say in the new year.

I can say it will prioritise those most at risk of complications or death from the virus, people with pre-existing respiratory illness, those in residential care settings and older Australians being in the first phase.

We will then look to health workers and others as we move forward with the intention to move as swiftly as we can. I will make the point, here is this country we will go through the normal process as we’re not in the same circumstances as the UK or US.

In terms of the processes, we are well advanced in looking at a plan for the roll-out and there will be more to say in the new year so that everyone is clear as we move to the end of the first quarter, what will occur and how to get a vaccine at an appropriate location and time.

I wanted to quickly touch on the upcoming end of year, and I firstly want to thank Tasmanians for their exceptional efforts this year. I want to thank all of our Public Health officials, Doctor Veitch and his team, as well as those in the THS and Department of Police and Emergency Services for the work they have done.

It has been a fantastic effort and importantly Tasmanians have done the right thing and we are one of the safest places on the planet.

Importantly, I remind people to do the right thing – make sure you appropriately social distance during the holiday period, make sure you wash your hands regularly and cover your coughs and sneezes.

I will stress this over and over again – please stay home if you’re unwell. Please don’t think you need to go to a Christmas gathering just because it is Christmas is you feel unwell. It is so important this year to stay home if you’re unwell and get a COVID test.

That being said, I’ll hand over to the Minister for the Arts and once again thank Tasmanians for their efforts and the efforts of those who have worked in our public sector and throughout our community as we worked our way through this.

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