Premier Peter Gutwein
Good morning everyone.
I want to start where I have finished on every occasion and that is to urge all Tasmanians to stay home and to stay safe and only to leave their homes for essential reasons.
Overnight, we’ve had four more cases in the North West of the state, taking our total positive cases to 205. All four cases relate to the North West outbreak, and the Minister and Dr Veitch will speak more about those in a moment.
I want to speak specifically about the North West additional restrictions that are in place. Obviously they are due for lifting this coming Sunday. However, I do want to ready the North West for the circumstance that this may not occur for another week. No final decision has been made yet, but I think it’s important that people start thinking about what their circumstances will be, should those restrictions not be lifted.
I specifically want North West parents to begin thinking about how they might manage their children next week, if they are at home, if we aren’t able to lift the additional restrictions, because if we aren’t able to lift the additional restrictions, obviously schools may not be able to open across the North West as previously planned.
Our plan has worked so far. However, four additional cases is four additional positive tests too many, and we do need to ensure that we work through this sensibly and not lift those restrictions too early. However, later today I’ll be taking advice from Pubic Health, and we will be working through the scenario planning in terms of the way forward, and a final view will be formed later this afternoon based on that advice.
This will be obviously communicated tomorrow, but I think it’s important that people take the opportunity to pause and think what another week’s restrictions may mean to them and in terms of how they manage their own circumstances.
The measures taken in the North West have been the toughest that have been implemented in the country, and I do want to thank the people of the North West in terms of the way that they have responded. In the main, the vast majority of people have been doing the right thing, and I want to thank them for that.
However, for now I do want to urge everyone to please stay at home. Don’t risk the virus spreading. As I have said, the virus doesn’t travel by itself, it travels with people. Don’t risk infecting someone or don’t risk catching it yourself. Importantly, stay at home and save lives.
It’s been one week since we’ve had a virus case outside of the North West. Now, we’re not the first state or jurisdiction to have to deal with an outbreak such as the North West, but importantly, if you look at the results that we’re seeing, it does demonstrate that the very strong measures that we have taken are holding us in good stead.
The vast majority, as I’ve said, of Tasmanians are doing the right thing and as we move toward the end of the period where we’ve said that we would review the restrictions for May 15, the broader restrictions, I want Tasmanians to ensure that they continue to follow the rules. I cannot stress that importantly enough. This is no time for complacency.
Next week, as people are aware, Parliament will resume for one day. It’s important to recognise, I think, that for the Parliament, initially it was thought that we wouldn’t be sitting again until August. The Parliamentary schedule in terms of the week that Parliament will sit has resumed as it was outlined, or will be resuming as it was outlined earlier this year.
Over the course of the designated sitting schedule, Parliament will take place for at this stage at least one day per week, depending on the level of business that the Parliament needs to deal with. This will allow us the opportunity to work through COVID-related legislation and also will allow the opportunity for Question Time and a level of scrutiny around the decisions that we have and will continue to make to keep Tasmanians safe.
If Parliament needs to sit longer than one day, then it will, but I don’t believe that this is a business-as-usual setting and, importantly, for Parliament, I don’t think that having it sit longer than it needs to when there isn’t necessary COVID-related business is sensible. At the end of the day though, if we need to extend Parliament to ensure that we can respond, then we will.
I want to take this opportunity again to thank my Cabinet and Parliamentary colleagues for the work that they’ve been doing. Members like Joan Rylah on the North West Coast who have quietly been beavering away supporting people, I think it’s important that they are acknowledged.
I do want to again thank the Leader of the Labor and the Greens Parties, Bec White and Cassy O'Connor, for the collaborative approach that they’ve taken as we dealt with this pandemic through the health response, and to other Members, including independents, such as Madeleine Ogilvie, Ruth Forrest, and Speaker Hickey who has also been doing a significant amount of work.
Whilst we have first and foremost been dealing with a health crisis, we’re also dealing with an economic crisis, and at the same time the business of Government has also had to continue.
Minister Shelton, in his role as Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management, continues to progress our response to the wildfires that beset the country earlier this year and, you know, how quickly we have moved past that dreadful situation that was occurring late last year and through January and February, but it is important that we have a plan to deal with the coming bushfire season, and Minister Shelton has been working hard on that with his agencies, and we will have more to say about that as we progress in coming weeks.
The Minister for infrastructure, Michael Ferguson, has continued to deal with the logistical challenges and the prohibitive pricing situation that was proposed at Station Pier in terms of the TT-Line. Consultation on this important matter has been continuing as well, and the Minister, along with TT-line, will have more to say on this matter soon, so that Tasmanians have clarity in terms of the Government’s position and thinking there.
Next week, I’ll be outlining in more detail Tasmania’s pathway to recovery. Our plan is working, the actions that we took early and before other jurisdictions stand us in good stead, albeit we have had to deal with a significant outbreak and, as I said in terms of that outbreak, we have taken the strongest measures in the country in terms of dealing with an outbreak like that.
Our short-term goal is to continue to suppress and crush this virus. That has to be our number one aim. The steps I outlined last week are currently underway. We’re working on increasing our testing capability. We’re increasing our capacity to track and trace the virus when identified through testing.
We’re ensuring that those businesses that are currently operating have COVID-ready plans in place to ensure that they can continue to operate safely, both for their customers and for their staff.
We need to ensure that businesses in those sectors of our economy that are currently closed have COVID-ready plans in place, so that when we begin to lift restrictions, their staff are safe and, importantly, their customers are safe, and people can visit those businesses with confidence.
I do want to be very clear though, in three weeks’ time, on May 15, not all restrictions are going to be lifted. Social distancing will be a way of life in Tasmania for the foreseeable future, as I’ve already indicated. We will work closely with Public Health to determine the pathway back. And whilst there may be some relaxation of the strict rules that are in place, I don’t expect, nor should anyone expect, a return to business as usual post May 15.
Pubs and clubs, because they are a people magnet, will be one of the last businesses to come out of this, and I need to make that point that we will step into this very carefully, very cautiously to ensure that when businesses are able to reopen, when restrictions are able to be lifted, as we step through this, that we are able to do that with confidence, both for their staff, for customers but, importantly, that our public health response remains clear and firm.
We first of all have to ensure that Tasmanians are kept safe and, importantly, that we save lives.
The future of Tasmania, I think, will be good. I think it will be a Tasmania that, as we rebuild, is one that people will be proud of. Though I want to say, and very clearly, that I very much like the confident Tasmania, the nation-leading Tasmania, the job-creating Tasmania, the Tasmania that provided opportunities that we had just a short while ago in February this year, a Tasmania that I think all Tasmanians felt proud and confident about. And I desperately want us to be able to get back to that.
We went into this from a position of economic strength. We had a strong balance sheet and that has been able to underpin our efforts. And as we come out of this, we will need to ensure that we are agile, that we are nimble and that we are able to ensure that we can provide a highly responsive position in terms of any action that we might need to take, both in the public health space, but also in the economic space. We need to ensure that we can flex up and flex down safely in response to any situational change.
Now, I’ll have more to say about our plan and what it involves next week, but for now my advice is very clear to Tasmanians. Keep staying home, follow the rules. Unless you need to be out for work, school, essential services, medical services or supplies, or to exercise, please stay home. By staying home, you will save lives. I cannot stress how important it is that we follow the rules.
And again I want to put a focus on the North and the South of the state. The response to date in terms of our action has meant that we haven’t seen cases for some time. But it’s important that people continue to follow the rules. You know, this is not a game, this is serious. At the end of the day, this virus kills people and we need to ensure that we take every necessary step that we can. It’s important that if we stay home now, if we stay safe now, that will provide us with the platform to rebuild. We need to remain disciplined, we need to operate within those rules.
And I want to thank the vast majority of Tasmanians that have been prepared to sacrifice, to do what has been asked of, because I believe that in doing so not only you’re protecting yourself and your families, but you’re protecting your community as well and the lives of Tasmanians, and I want to say thank you for that. But, the work isn’t over.
We must remain disciplined. We must follow the rules, and as we begin to step our way out of this, I would ask that all Tasmanians have patience but, importantly, discipline to ensure that we can continue to save lives.