Premier Peter Gutwein
Good afternoon and as I indicated this morning, we have an announcement to make as to how we’re going to manage this outbreak on the NW Coast. Joining us today for those of you that have regularly been watching these sessions, obviously Prof. Tony Lawler, the Deputy Director of Public Health Scott McKeown, Health Minister Sarah Courtney and Katherine Morgan-Wicks who is the Secretary of the Department of Health but is also the State Health Commander as we work through this health emergency.
I’ve said keeping Tasmanians safe and secure is our number one priority. We’ve made it very clear to Tasmanians through the course of this journey that if and when necessary we will take additional steps to ensure we can get on top of this, that we can flatten the curve, but importantly we can keep Tasmanians safe.
With the current outbreak in the NW of Tasmania a serious concern, we need to take immediate steps to stem any further potential spread. In terms of the 133 current positive cases that have been recorded here in the state, obviously and unfortunately, 5 people have died, but 61 of those cases are linked to the NW Coast, 49 of them are linked to this health outbreak and 35 of them are health care workers themselves.
It’s important we take steps to get on top of this to protect not only the people that live on the NW Coast, their families, but that we take the necessary steps to protect the rest of Tasmania as well. We’ll be outlining a plan to secure NW health services this afternoon and more detail will be provided by the health minister and the state health commander, but in effect, what this plan will do begins with a temporary closure and deep clean of the NWRH and the NWPH. As part of this plan, NWRH and NWPH staff and their households will be required to undergo 14 days of quarantine isolation from their last day of work. We expect this will be more than 1000 people that will need to be isolated as well as their families as well, so a significant number of people on the NW Coast will be moving into quarantine and self-isolation.
I want to say that I’m sorry we’ve needed to do this but at the end of the day we need to get on top of this. We need to ensure that we can crush this virus at its source, and with this outbreak, we need to take these steps. In order to retain as much hospital capacity as possible, we are expanding bringing additional staff into the Mersey Hospital to allow it to take the vast majority of patients from the NWRH through this period. There will be a limited few that will need to go to other hospitals in the state and that will depend on whether or not the Mersey’s able to provide the care they need. For example, if you were a cardiac patient requiring the services only the Royal could provide. Patient and staff safety is our number one priority, with any transport of patients to be treated with full precautions in effect, treated as if they have coronavirus. We will be ensuring our staff and our patients are treated in terms of the seriousness of this with the seriousness it deserves.
The health minister will make a statement and provide more clarity in a couple of moments. But to ensure the health, safety and protection of the NW community, we need to take further steps as well. We will be putting in place additional stronger restrictions in terms of the NW community effective at midnight tonight. These further measures will impact on retail and broadly be spread right across the retail sector, but I’ll come to that in a moment. In terms of the significant outbreak, and I do want to apologise to people on the NW Coast – this will mean your lives are going to be interrupted. It means in some cases you’ll be in self quarantine for a period of 14 days with your family and your close contacts will be quarantined as well. This will be a difficult period and I would ask you to work with us. The aim of this is to get to the end of a two-week period where we can bring those health services back online and importantly that we would be able to lift the restrictions as well. But we need to do this, we need to do it now, we need to get on top of it and I make no apologies for that nor the swiftness of the action we’re taking. In terms of retail and business closures in the NW.
From midnight tonight, additional restrictions will be implemented for a period of 14 days across these municipal areas: Latrobe, Kentish, Devonport, Central Coast, Burnie, Waratah-Wynyard, Circular Head and the West Coast. Under these new restrictions, the following with apply. For individuals, the rules won’t change – we want you to stay at home and only leave for essential purposes. If you don’t need to go to work, if you don’t need to go out for essential supplies, if you don’t need to go out for medical services, if you don’t need to go out for exercise, over the next 14-day period while schools are on holiday, stay home and save lives. Stay home and do the right thing by your community, by yourself and importantly by your family and by your friends. In terms of compliance with the stay at home message, police will continue to pay special attention to the NW Coast in terms of the stay at home message. Don’t be surprised as many of you would know over the Easter period, hundreds of Tasmanians have been questioned by police, 23 people have been arrested by police for breaching these rules. The police will pay special attention to the NW Coast through this period.
In terms of businesses: Additional business restrictions affecting most of the remaining retailers will be implemented. These measures are aimed at reducing customer facing interactions wherever possible. All remaining retail businesses on the NW Coast will now be required to close unless they offer online or home delivery services, from midnight tonight. There are a range of exceptions and I want to be clear, in terms of those. Exceptions will be provided for those providing essential services, such as medical services or pharmacies, supermarkets, businesses that provide food such as green grocers, food and takeaway businesses. Service and petrol stations will be able to remain open, bakeries which will fall into that food bracket as well, will be able to remain open. Laundromats, dry cleaners, newsagents, rural services and general stores, bottleshops, IT repairs, car repairers (but new and used car sales are closed), veterinary services to look after animals and pet food suppliers, and banks. Everything else will be closed.
Obviously those businesses that close, if they can provide online sales and home deliver, then that is for them to work their way through. But I want to be clear – Kmart, Harvey Norman, Target, other big box retailers will all close. In terms of trade supply stores including Bunnings, they will only be able to sell to trade customers only. I want to be clear about that, trade supply stores including Bunnings will only be able to supply to trade customers only. If you operate a retail business that doesn’t fall into these categories and you are unable to offer online sales and home deliver, then you must close. Exemptions will be able to be applied for but they will be looked at very closely.
Local Government services will continue to operate as determined by each local council. There will be an Order under the Public Health Act which will take effect from midnight tonight and this will contain the details which I’ve just announced, will be communicated clearly in newspaper advertisements and radio announcements beginning tomorrow.
I want to provide strong guidance for people in terms of these changes – protect your family, stay close to your home. If you can, don’t travel out of your location around where you live. Certainly don’t take this as an opportunity to believe that what you can do if you were thinking about shopping at Bunnings is drive to another Bunnings store in the state. Do not be surprised if police ask what you are doing, where you’re going and what the purpose of your trip is, and if it’s not an essential trip, then you can expect the full force of the law to be brought down.
I want to say, and in terms of both the staff that will be quarantined, I am sorry that we have to do this, but please work with us. We have a goal that over the two-week period that we can return to some semblance of normal and I ask that you work with us through that period. It will be difficult, it will be tough, but we need to do this for both the benefit of yourself, your families and the broader NW community, and the state. In terms of those businesses, I would hope that at the end of this two-week period, beginning at midnight tonight that we would be able to lift some of those restrictions. We will keep it under review and again it will be determined by whether there is community transmission occurring across the NW Coast. It is important we do everything we possibly can to stamp this out right now, and I make no apologies for the measures we’re putting in place. They are firm, some people will see them as being harsh, but at the end of the day, we need to get on top of this. We have an outbreak. Unfortunately, for a state that in my view has done everything right and we’ve taken steps before other jurisdictions, but now we have this outbreak, what we have to do is manage it, get on top of it and beat it, and I would ask all NW Coasters work with us whilst we do this.