Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 31 MARCH 2020

Premier Peter Gutwein

...Yesterday, I sadly had to announce that we had our first death of an elderly woman on the North West Coast. Today, unfortunately and sadly, I need to confirm that we’ve had our second death from the coronavirus. An elderly man who’s been cared for at the Royal Hobart Hospital passed away overnight. I want to extend my deepest sympathies to his family and to his friends. This is a very, very sad time. This is two deaths in Tasmania, two deaths too many, and it serves as a warning to us all that these are going to be tough and difficult times, and we must all play our part to keep Tasmania safe.

In the main, Tasmanians are doing the right thing. In the main, they’re abiding by the rules. Most Tasmanians have put in place the measures that they need to, and most Tasmanians are doing what they can in terms if social distancing and, importantly, in terms of self-isolation.

But yesterday we made some changes that came into effect last night, and I just want to spend some time on those and provide some clarity on a number of matters and also indicate that there will be a detailed fact sheet and information and also some frequently asked questions that will be out today to ensure that people understand exactly what’s going on.

The rules that came into place about staying at home are in effect from midnight last night. At a high level, stay at home, unless you’re going to work or that you’re volunteering, unless you’re going to school, unless you’re out for essential supplies or medical supplies and, importantly, unless you’re out for exercise.

I’ll provide a little bit more granular detail, just to provide some clarity, and then these matters will be captured in the order and they’ll be in the fact sheet that is out today.

So, if you’re shopping for supplies or services, attending medical or healthcare appointments or for medical treatment, obviously that’s fine.

If you’re undertaking personal exercise, fine.

If you need to provide social support or care to another person, including on compassionate needs or if you need to share custody in children or care arrangements for another person.

A lot of Tasmanians have pets. If you need to utilise veterinary services for an animal, of course that’s okay.

Many Tasmanians, as I’ve indicated, have a second property. We expect you to stay in your primary place of residence. However, if you need to make urgent repairs or there is damage that you need to fix, you can go to that other property and do those urgent repairs.

There is also some discretion that the Director of Public Health has, and I just want to just deal with a couple of matters that were raised, in fact one especially that came in from a number of people last night in terms of partners, that both own a property, or both are living in separate properties. Are they allowed to stay at each other’s property overnight? Look, I must.., I never thought that I’d be extending into people’s love lives in this particular way, but I just want to say, utilise common sense. Utilise common sense. The Director has a discretion, and I’ve raised it with him this morning, and we’ll provide some clarity in terms of those circumstances.

So, what are essential supplies, just to be clear? Food and other household supplies, as well as pharmaceutical and medical supplies, those things you may need for urgent home repairs or maintenance, getting your vehicle serviced or repaired.

Importantly, you shouldn’t be out purchasing supplies from a business that is prohibited. And I want to be clear. There is no.., we have not defined essential services or businesses. What we have done, to be very clear, is we have provided a list of those businesses that are prohibited. If you’re on that list, and that list is available, again, on the website and provides more clarity, and I’m hoping the media can help us today in terms of providing that list in the paper, so that there’s absolute clarity. If you’re not on that list, then you can operate in business.

Questions such as should I be using public transport?

The answer is yes, utilise appropriate social distancing.

Should I still be sending my children to school?

We made it perfectly clear to parents, you should keep your children at home if you can support them. If not, our schools remain open and they will provide support for those parents who are working. And, again, this issue of essential workers. If you have a job and you’re going to work and you want your children to go to school, they can go to school.

One question that was asked a number of times yesterday was can you still exercise outdoors?

Absolutely, but only two people together. If you want to go for a walk, if you want to go for a run, if you want to ride a bike, many Tasmanians go shooting, many Tasmanians go fishing. You can still do those activities, but only two people. We want to ensure that we can stop the spread of this disease. And if you are undertaking those activities, and another one that was raised was horse riding, you know, again, only two people. Use your common sense and, importantly, abide by the rules. Take into account social distancing, protect yourselves, your family, your loved ones and your community.

A question that was raised by a number of people last night again was we have elderly people next door, can we check on them?

You know, elderly people are at risk. If you can talk over the fence, do that. But if you want to check, knock on the door and make certain they are okay, there’s no issue with that. But again, be mindful that they are a high-risk group, and we want you to be sensible in the way that you go about this. This is about protecting our community. This is about ensuring that those that we love, our family, our friends, our community, are kept safe.

The issue of shacks came up. Again, we don’t want a flood of people going to small coastal villages that are largely retirement villages over the Easter. You make a decision in terms of where you will be staying in your primary residence, and you do not go on holiday at your shack. For some people who are self-isolating who are already at their shack, that’s fine, but that’s your nominated address for the four-week period.

Questions were raised in terms of parents that share custody. Custody arrangements still need to be managed and children can still stay at each of the partners’ premises or property in line with the custody arrangements. We’re not going to reach into those. But, again, be sensible in terms of how you manage these matters. This is for Tasmania’s protection.

Now, as I said yesterday, it is a significant shift. It is a significant shift. What we need to ensure is that we all abide by the rules. Now that we’ve had, unfortunately, our second death, you know, there is a message in that for all of us. This virus is deadly. This virus will kill you. You know, take the necessary steps that you can, utilise the rules to your advantage. Social distancing and abiding by the rules will save your life, it will save your family’s life, it will save lives in our community.

Stay home and save lives is the overarching message, and the simple fact of the matter is that that is the truth. If you stay home, if you abide by the rules, if you do everything you can in terms of social distancing, then you will save lives, and that’s exactly what we need in Tasmania to be doing to help us through this.

I want to.., the Australian Government last night, based on AHPPC advice, upgraded the previous advice and it had initially in terms of the strong guidance for older people. The initial guidance was that if you’re over 60 with an underlying condition and those over 70 should consider self-isolation. That was upgraded last night to where if you’re over 65 years of age and you have an underlying health condition, rather than 60 years of age. So, 65 if you have an underlying health condition and those over the age of 70 should consider self-isolation to protect themselves. And this is strong guidance, it’s not a mandatory position.

I do want to just touch on the Prime Minister’s package yesterday, the $130 billion Jobkeepers package. And I would encourage businesses in Tasmania to register for that. I was briefed fully on it last night. Under the circumstances, it is a great opportunity for businesses to hibernate and for those who are continuing to trade to support their employees and, importantly, continue with money into their employees’ pockets. Importantly, it covers off casuals who have been employed for at least 12 months in the business. Importantly, if a business has closed because there just simply isn’t enough trade or its turnover has been affected, the package still applies to them. You don’t have to be one of the businesses that has been prohibited and closed. Get on the website, register your interest, because this will help you ensure that your business can hibernate for the period that we need to work through this, and when we come out the other side that your employees can remain attached to that business and your workforce is ready to take the next step and rebuild.

Tasmania has an opportunity. We have an opportunity to ensure that we don’t get to a full shutdown. And the measures that we have put in place in terms of strict social distancing are designed to do that. In terms of the rules from midnight last night, ensure that you abide by them. Use common sense. In terms of the two-person rule, as strict as it is, it’s there for a reason. It’s designed to keep you safe, and it’s designed to keep Tasmanians safe and to save lives.

So, look, I’ll pass over to the Health Minister to provide a broader update, but my message to Tasmanian today is that we now have our second death. This is absolutely serious. You know, Tasmanians should take heed of the messages, they should follow the rules, and if we do and follow the rules, then we’re going to keep more Tasmanians safe, we’re going to save lives, and that’s the important thing here.

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