Premier Peter Gutwein
We’ve just finished National Cabinet and, as I indicated a number of weeks ago, today’s the day that we’ll provide an update in terms of our borders and a date later in July.
I want to begin by saying first and foremost that the health and safety of Tasmanians has and remains our number one priority.
Importantly, we’ve not had a coronavirus case in our state for 41 days and Tasmanians should be congratulated on their efforts to date.
We have flattened the curve and we’ve suppressed the virus here in Tasmania, which was the goal that we set out to do.
I wanted to speak about elimination which would of course be ideal, and I can’t recall the throwaway line that Dr Veitch used a couple of weeks ago which was that it might become a by-product of a suppression strategy, I think it might have been, but elimination is something that we will not see until we receive or have a vaccine.
We worked hard to get COVID-19 under control, and we’ve introduced safeguards and rapid response processes that ensure that we can act quickly, should situations arise.
These measures are working well and they are in place.
Our borders had served as an important safeguard with the restrictions in place to help suppress the virus in our State.
It’s important though that we have a safe and responsible pathway forward to easing our border restrictions.
While I know that for some people they would much prefer our borders not to be opened at any time at all, there are many people that have been calling for our borders to open immediately.
However, we must continue to follow Public Health advice.
I simply won’t put Tasmanians’ lives at risk, and it’s important that we continue to act, as we have right through this, on the advice that we’re receiving.
The advice that we have is that we need to ensure that there is adequate time between our easing of Stage Three restrictions at twelve noon today and when we might open up and remove our border restrictions.
This will ensure we have appropriate processes in place, both for arrivals and departures; appropriate plans in place for direct flights where available and required; and the confidence that Tasmanians are able to transit through major gateways, such as Tullamarine Airport.
We also need to have confidence in other states which may present a risk to Tasmania, states that may have community transmission and could compromise Tasmanians’ health and safety.
With that in mind, and considering comprehensive assessments that have been undertaken by Public Health, it will be four weeks before we ease the restrictions on our borders.
The date that we are setting is Friday the 24th of July.
However, if the Public Health advice at that time or in the immediate lead-up to that date is that it is not safe to open and remove our restrictions then, very simply, we will not open up our borders.
Over the next four weeks, we’ll put in place a plan to support a safe relaxation of our border restrictions.
It will include reviewing the circumstances of other states and territories on a weekly basis, and we will have a formal review of Victoria’s situation in two weeks.
I want to be absolutely clear. As the circumstances stand today, if we were opening up tomorrow, we would not be opening up our borders with Victoria tomorrow.
And in terms of our broader border position, I want to make this perfectly clear, I don’t care who is calling for it, whether it be a lobby group, whether it be the Prime Minister, if the Public Health advice is that we should maintain our restrictions, then we will maintain our restrictions
Tasmanians right through this have worked with us, and we’ve been guided by Public Health advice. We will continue to be guided by Public Health advice.
The ongoing reviews that we put in place, the weekly review, will enable us to understand the circumstances of community transmission evolving in Victoria, and also in other states and territories, noting that Victoria will be going into school holidays as of tomorrow, and then maybe Victorians travelling to other parts of their State or, for example, into New South Wales and the ACT, which don’t have border controls in place.
We’ll also implement measures at our borders in four weeks’ time, including at both airports and our seaport, to ensure we have detailed understanding of who is entering our State, should we open up our borders on the 24th of July and, importantly, enable us to be able to contact those who come to Tasmania for regular updates in terms of their health and their circumstances.
This will be supported by an app that we are currently modifying in conjunction with other states. It can be used on a mobile, laptop or computer and will be complemented by a manual record system to cater for all people, which will be utilised at the borders.
The app, which is currently being used in WA, will essentially replace the current Tasmanian arrivals form and is designed for efficient border entry management arrangements and will include the use of a Q-scanner as well.
We will continue our engagement with airlines in regards to direct flights, wherever possible, to states and territories that are currently COVID-free, and well work with the Victoria Government to understand the measures that are currently in place to ensure a safe transition through Tullamarine, should that be necessary, depending on Victoria’s circumstances at the time in four weeks.
Furthermore, we will continue to build capacity in our tracking and tracing and rapid response teams, so that if the virus emerges, we’re well placed to act swiftly and to keep Tasmanians safe.
This pathway to relaxing our border provides a date to enable Tasmanians to plan, a date to ensure that every one of our safeguards are working effectively, to ensure that we have the utmost confidence of what is happening over our fence.
And, as I’ve often said, it’s not so much about what’s occurring in Tasmania, it’s what’s happening over the fence in the other jurisdictions, and the four-week period will enable us through a weekly review and then a formal review in a fortnight’s time in terms of Victoria to understand exactly what the circumstances are.
I want to finish, and again, just be perfectly clear with Tasmanians, whilst we’re setting a date for the 24th of July, in four weeks’ time, I want to be very clear that the health and safety of Tasmanians has been our number one priority and will remain our number one priority. We won’t jeopardise this, and we will not open our borders and remove our restrictions, should the Public Health advice be that we should not do so.
We’ve come a significant way. We’ve taken important steps. It’s come a lot sooner and we’re here a lot sooner than we anticipated.
But I do want to, again, urge Tasmanians, importantly, today, especially on the basis that we are moving to our Stage Three lifting of restrictions, it has never been more important to ensure that you maintain good personal hygiene, to ensure that you abide by the social distancing rules and stay one-and-a-half metres away from other people, that you follow the rules and, importantly, if you haven’t already, download the COVID app and ensure that should we need to track and trace, should we need to contact you to protect you, your family or your community, that we’re able to do so as quickly and expeditiously as possible.