Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 18 APRIL 2020

Premier Peter Gutwein

Staying home and saving lives has never been more important.

Yesterday I notified the State in the afternoon about the death of a 72 year old man in the State’s North West.

Today we confirm another death, a 74 year old man, a patient from the North West Regional Hospital, who was being cared for at the Mersey Community Hospital who has sadly passed away.

This morning I need to extend my sympathies to not one family, but two families.

I’m so very sorry for your loss. These are very sad and difficult days indeed.

Unfortunately this brings our total deaths in the State from this virus to eight. And that’s eight deaths in less than three weeks.

I cannot stress just how serious this is. This is not the time to become complacent.

These deaths stand as a reminder of just how deadly this virus is. And it’s important, and I know Tasmanians are at times struggling with the rules we have put in place and the fact that we’re asking people to quarantine. But this provides a full stop, I believe, in the sentence that says just how important these rules are, because these rules will help Tasmanians to stay alive and stay safe from this deadly virus. It is so important that we follow the rules. I cannot stress that enough.

Yesterday, we confirmed four new cases of coronavirus, all related to the NW of the State. Two of those were health care workers, one is a former patient of the NWRH, and another is a close contact of a previous case.

I know the measures we have put in place in the NW Coast in terms of quarantine appear to be extreme, but I am comforted that these four new positive cases were all in quarantine, all in isolation. It demonstrates that the measures, as hard as they are, are actually working, and it’s important we do all that we can to control the spread of this virus.

This brings the total number of positive cases to 184: 111 from the NW, 45 from the South and 25 cases in the North, and unfortunately we’ve had eight deaths.

On the other side of the ledger, we’ve had nearly 70 people recovered – 68 that have recovered and it will increase each day, and this is a positive that we should look for each day we work through this.

I want to stress this morning, we are seeing two very different situations in Tasmania.

In the NW, we obviously have an outbreak that we have to work very hard to contain and get on top of, and we are taking every measure that we can.

In the South and the North of the State, we are not seeing the same level of positive cases, and it demonstrates that the early steps that we took, the early measures that we put in place to lead the country, are working. We just have an outbreak that we need to get on top of.

But what it does, it underlines the fact that Tasmanians cannot become complacent. It underlines the fact that the rules are in place to ensure that we stay safe.

And once again – and people will get sick of this – over the period that I’m standing here in front of you: Stay home and save lives. It is so important that everyone hears that message regardless of where you live. If complacency creeps in, then we will see more death in. If complacency creeps in, we will see more cases. We need to keep on top of that. We need to do everything we can to get on top of this disease.

Yesterday I said, this virus doesn’t move by itself, this virus moves with people. If we can restrict our movements, then we can ensure that we are mindful of the rules, we will control the spread of the virus. The virus doesn’t move by itself, it moves with people. It’s very simple. I ask all Tasmanians to do what they can to limit the spread of this virus.

If we’re not moving, neither is the virus. That’s why staying at home is a life saving measure. It’s why we’ve gone to great lengths to ensure that we’ve put in place rules that are going to help people stay at home, to control the spread of this virus and to save lives.

I want to touch just briefly on the activities of the Police yesterday on the NW Coast. Around 700 vehicles were intercepted. The vast majority of those intercepts were doing the right thing. But those intercepts will continue.

Today, I expect that we will have check points on the Lyell, the Frankford and the Bass Highways as well as those key routes being patrolled heavily. If you don’t have a reason to be out of your home, you will be asked to return home, and if you don’t, you can be charged. Please follow the rules.

This is not the day or the weekend to take a shopping trip out of the NW. It is not the day or the weekend, if you live in the South or the North of the State, to visit someone in the NW. Just simply do not do it. Let’s control the movement of this virus.

It’s unfortunate that our Police are having to do this, but at the end of the day, I stand behind them.

We need to ensure that we get on top of this and that we control the movement of this virus, and the only way we are going to do that is if we control the movements of people. So follow the rules and stay safe.

In terms of restrictions, the broader restrictions we have put in place, as announced yesterday on the back of National Cabinet on Thursday that the restrictions would stay in place for another four weeks. Across the State, to the 15th of May.

The additional restrictions on the NW Coast that we announced on Easter Sunday will remain in place for the two week period as we indicated, until Sunday of next week. We will review, and if we can start to life them, we will. But the most important thing is that we get on top of this outbreak in the NW. And I ask that everybody does every thing that they can to make sure we do.

The restrictions are clearly on the coronavirus website. If you need to understand what they are, please take the time to go to that website and look at them. We want to work with you, but importantly, now that we’ve been in this for the weeks that we have, there is no excuse for anyone for not understanding what those rules are. We simply cannot become complacent. Eight deaths are eight deaths too many, but I think there will be more. I think we need to ready ourselves for that. So please don’t become complacent, please do everything you can.

Last night – and I get a number of emails and contacts from people – but last night I got one from a family at Forth, and I just want to say thank you so much for reaching out. A family with three young children doing their very best to follow the rules, to keep themselves and their families safe. And I say to families all around the State, and especially in the NW – do the right thing. Stay at home, save lives, save the life of your partner, your children. Do not go out and run the risk of bringing this virus into your home. Don’t bring it home to your partner, don’t bring it home to your pregnant sister, do not bring it home to your children, and importantly, don’t bring it into the home of your parents.

Over the course of today we will receive the testing results from the aged care facilities on the NW Coast and the Health Minister will run through the number of tests that have been conducted. I am hopeful that we will not see a further outbreak, but I think that we should ready ourselves for the results of this testing. And I know that for the families of people in the aged care facilities, they will be waiting with baited breath for those results. We will do an update at the end of the day. We won’t do an hour-by-hour update of test results, but by the end of the day, we’ll be able to provide some clarity on the results of those tests. The Health Minister will run through the measures that we have in place to ensure that, should there be another outbreak, the steps that we will take immediately to get on top of that, in terms of the contact tracing that we will work our way through.

But I do want to reach out today to a number of people. The newspapers – and I thank them for this – and the campaign that The Mercury kicked off in terms of Shining a Light for our frontline workers. I encourage Tasmanians at this time to get on board with this campaign, and over the course of this weekend, as it gets dark this evening, to turn on your lights, light a candle, put a light out the front of your home. Demonstrate the support we have for all of the people who are doing so very much, and going above and beyond, to help both those that are in the midst of fighting the virus but those that are dealing with it as well. I ask that we get on board with that and Shine a Light. And whether those frontline workers are our health workers, or teachers, police, biosecurity, freight delivery operators, our cleaners – we owe a huge debt of gratitude for. Those serving at our counters in restaurants that are still open and providing takeaway food. Those that are working in our productive industries, ensuring that our freight routes are open, that our farms are still operating, ensuring that we still have food on the table. Shine Light for them. Because it is difficult. I’ve got a family at home, I know the level of concern that they’ve got. I know that many people in our community are frightened, that they are concerned. These are the people who are supporting us every single day. Take the opportunity today to Shine a Light for them.

In the NW Coast, we’ve closed two hospitals out of three. This is a significant and unprecedented measure. I believe that our quarantining is working. As I said, the four new cases were already in isolation. But that has put obviously strain on the Mersey, and I want to reach out to the Mersey staff and say thank you. I know it’s difficult. And I understand, under these circumstances, how you’ve gone above and beyond, and I want to thank you for that. I do especially want to reach out to the Launceston General Hospital. The people in my home town, in my electorate. I know the people in the LGH have supported the people of the NW, and now with two hospitals closed, they will carry an increased load, and I want to thank the LGH staff for the work they are doing, both in ensuring they support our efforts right now, and in preparing that hospital for increased efforts should we need them. The Royal, again, is doing a fantastic job, and all of our health workers across the State should be supported. And today, as I’ve said, when it gets dark tonight, just do something, it’s only small, take the opportunity to Shine a Light for those people who are doing so much to protect all of us at this difficult time. We are so grateful and thankful for everybody who is working as hard as they can to support our efforts.

My final comment this morning, and I think it’s the most important one, is – do not become complacent. Do not become complacent. The fact that we have had lower case numbers in the North and the South is a good outcome. But we are not through this yet What we need is for people to follow the rules, to remain disciplined, as difficult as it is. We will get on top of this outbreak in the NW. The resources that we’re putting in, the people who are supporting our effort up there should be thanked, but we will get on top of this virus, and we will come out the other side. But right now, please don’t become complacent, ensure that you do the right thing. Make certain that you stay home, and that you stay safe.

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