Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 21 APRIL 2020

Premier Peter Gutwein

I will start where I have begun on so many occasions and also finished, that keeping Tasmanian safe from the virus is our number one priority but, importantly, Tasmanians need to follow the message of stay home and save lives.

Overnight, we confirmed five more cases of the virus, taking our total to 200. All five cases are in the North West of the state and all are linked to the outbreak. 74 people, pleasingly, have now recovered and there are currently 118 active cases.

We’re not alone in having an outbreak. And like every other state or territory or country that’s had one, it’s important that you move swiftly to get on top of it, and that’s exactly what we have done. In the last couple of days we’ve seen a reduction in cases coming out of the North West and I am hopeful.., I won’t ever say confident in terms of the circumstances that’s around this virus, but I am hopeful that the measures that we have taken are working. The significant quarantining of both staff and their families, the steps that we have taken to contact trace aggressively and, importantly, the increased testing are helping us to get on top of this.

I would like again to thank all of those in the North West for supporting the measures that we have put in place, difficult as they are. I would once again send a message out to those that may not be abiding by the rules as strictly as they should and request that they do so.

At the end of the day the police will continue to be monitoring activities, they will continue to have patrols on the roads and they will continue to arrest and summons people that are doing the wrong thing.

I do want to thank AUSMAT and the AFD teams for their assistance in getting the Emergency Department up and running, and over time the North West Regional and the North West Private will come back, subject to cleaning the different parts of the hospital, as we move forward.

The retail restrictions in place on the North West are due to end on Sunday night. We are reviewing this, as I’ve said previously, on a day by day basis, and we will take expert advice from Public Health before making any decisions to remove those restrictions.

Over coming days, I’ll continue to update people on how we’re tracking and the decision-making process as it evolves.

Of course, one of the key aspects of this will be an increase or not in cases and whether or not we continue to see the trend as it is occurring at the moment.

And obviously another aspect will be whether we see another outbreak on the North West Coast and, importantly, I would say to people, please do the right thing.

Limit your movements. The virus does not travel by itself. It travels with people, and the steps that we have taken are designed to limit movement and, importantly, the best way that people can assist us is by staying home, only leaving their home for essential proposes and ensuring that they don’t take this virus out into the broader community.

Do not risk your family, do not risk your kids, do not risk your parents. Do the right thing, take responsibility and limit your movements.

This morning I’ll be attending the National Cabinet. There’ll be a number of matters there, but I do want to touch on a couple of important ones to begin with.

Importantly, the strict social distancing rules will remain in place to 15th May. In terms of the additional retail restrictions, as I’ve just indicated on the North West Coast, they may be able to be lifted on Sunday night, but we will work through that process and, as I’ve said, we will be guided by the evidence and data.

In terms of the restrictions that are in place to May 15, I do want to be absolutely clear about this. All of those restrictions will not be lifted. We will step back into this cautiously and based on public health advice post May 15, subject to there not being another outbreak in the state and, importantly, in respect to the outbreak on the North West Coast being completely contained.

In terms of the prerequisites, lifting the restrictions, and the Prime Minister raised and spoke about these last week, obviously increased testing, and we have taken the first steps down that path in terms of the testing, and the Health Minister can again explain today how that increased testing is occurring and also what our aims are into the future in terms of that.

The second prerequisite is that we have an increased capacity to tack and to trace. The app which is now being spoken about in public discourse, you know, some more favourably than others, but the app will be an important tool that will help us to contact, trace and track, and I want to say a little bit more about that this morning.

The other important aspect to this will be COVID-ready business plans. In terms of our existing industries that are currently still operating, they maintain the strict social distancing rules, but we’re working with each of those industry sectors, and we will continue to engage over the remainder of this period up until May 15 to make certain that our industries that are still operating do have COVID-ready business plans in place and, importantly, those industries or sectors of our economy that we start to open up will likewise need to have a COVID-ready plan. There’s work underway at the moment, and I’ll be speaking with our State Cabinet this afternoon in terms of the steps that we’ve already put in place but, importantly, some other steps that we’ll be taking.

But I do want to discuss the app, and the app will be a matter for discussion at National Cabinet today.

Once the app is downloaded, through Bluetooth connectivity, it will on your phone record the ID of the phones that are in your vicinity, in close contact with you. That data, as I understand it, will remain on your phone. If you test positive, then the app can be activated, and what it will enable to occur is that very quickly contact tracking and tracing can take place.

If I could use this room as an example. Now, it’s Emily I think, isn’t it, and Laura and Cam. Now, if I were to test positive, obviously I would list Dr Veitch, Stephen and the Health Minister as people that I had been in close contact with. I would be able to provide your names for the contact tracers to contact.

Now, the bloke with the camera, probably with the most importantly job in the room, I don’t know his surname, nor his details, and therefore I would need to work with others, and it would take longer for me to get those details. If I had the app and if I tested positively, that data could be accessed through Bluetooth connectivity it would have recorded which phones were in my vicinity, and straightaway somebody could be called and contacted.

And what that means is that we can move swiftly to save lives. What it means is that the people that are in close contact with a positive case are able to be contacted very quickly, in real time, with a view to ensuring that they self-isolate, if they’ve got symptoms, they get tested, and we actually do this with speed.

Now, as it stands at the moment, contact tracing relies on a person being interviewed and a series of question and their memory, and some memories will be better than others, and it can take time. What the app will do is ensure that we can move very swiftly, that we can contact those people that might be at risk, that we can help them to protect themselves, to get tested but, importantly, we can help their family and their community as well.

And so, the app will be discussed at Cabinet today and, you know, I would hope that Tasmanians, when the app becomes available, would download it in droves. The reason I say that, on my phone at the moment I’m tracked by Google through my location devices with most of the apps that I’ve downloaded. In fact, Google seems to be able to read my mind, to be frank, in terms of the data that it collects.

This app will simply record the phones in your vicinity, and if you test positive, then your healthcare professional or GP will turn it on, the data will be able to be collected and Public Health will then go through the process and be able to get in touch with this people much sooner, which will save lives.

And so I would ask Tasmanians to keep an open mind to this. It can be, you know, whenever Government asks for something like this to occur, there will always be those in the community that will resist it. But we’ll need around 40% of people to sign up to this for it to actually work to the extent that will actually assist us to save lives.

National Cabinet today will also be discussing elective surgery and the restrictions there, and we’ll be working through those matters today with National Cabinet, as well as a range of other matters as well.

The Health Minister will discuss testing, as I’ve said, but I do want to finish my short comments this morning with saying that, you know, it’s important that we do the right thing. You know, we have had an outbreak which we worked very hard to get on top of. Our position in the North of the State and in the South of the state is very good.

We get in top of this outbreak in the North West, and then we can start to take the steps to move back to a normal life. It will be a different life, and I’ve said that, and people need to understand this. Social distancing is going to be with us until there is a vaccine, but we will be able to look at what restrictions we can begin to lift over time.

It is important that we all follow the rules. It’s important that we all take the steps that we can to keep ourselves, our families, our communities safe. And the vast majority of Tasmanians, as I’ve said on many occasions, are doing the right thing, and I would encourage them to continue to do the right thing. For those that are not, please think of yourself, and if you don’t care about your own life, think about the lives of your family, think about the lives of those people that are your friends and in your community. Please do the right thing, stay home and save lives.

***