Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 4 MAY 2020

Premier Peter Gutwein

I want to start first of all by thanking Tasmanians for the work that they have been doing and, importantly, for following the rules. But I do want to stress this. Even though we’ve had three days in a row with zero cases, it is not over yet. There is still work to be done, and I want to ask all Tasmanians to continue to follow the rules, stay safe. Stay home, importantly, don’t allow the virus to travel with you. Limit your movements.

And I’ll say more about our plan this week and how we’re going to work with the National Cabinet and, importantly, in terms of the road map that I want to release on Friday in terms of the steps that we’ll be taking.

But, importantly, in our State at the moment, we now only have 44 active cases of coronavirus, and this number has been falling steadily. This is good news. But, I want to be clear, as we increase our testing, we will find more positive cases. That is a statement of fact, and that will happen. But I want Tasmanians to remain vigilant. It’s not over yet, and I can’t stress that enough.

In terms of testing overall, we’ve now completed more than 15,000 tests, but we do want more tests to be completed. And so, we have the surge capacity up to 1,000 a day, and with additional capacity coming on in coming weeks, I would encourage anyone in the South or the North, if they have even the slightest sniffle to contact their GP or the Public Health Hotline and get tested. The deeper we can make our testing, the more confident we can be in terms of where the virus is and, importantly, how we can stamp it out.

To the North West. The additional restrictions in place in the North West have now been lifted, but it is important to make the point that these are only the additional restrictions that have been in place for the last three weeks. It is not open slather on the North West.

The rules that are in place across the State remain in place across the State and, importantly, if you don’t need to leave your home to go out for essential supplies, medical services, to go to school or to work or to volunteer, please stay home. It’s important.

The statewide rules remain in place. They are still strict and, importantly, we will have more of a police presence on the North West Coast through the course of this week again, just to ensure that people understand the message, and that is that the statewide rules remain in place. It’s only the additional restrictions in terms of retail, those big boxes that were closed, Bunnings to only trade. It’s only those changes that come back in place today on the North West Coast.

Importantly, our schools on the North West Coast will be open. But I do want to stress this. We said before Easter, and we’ve remained consistent, that over the course of this term, parents should keep their children at home unless they can’t support their child’s learning or if they’re going to work. Our schools will remain open but, importantly, if you can keep your children at home, keep them at home. We will keep this under review, as we work through the second term, but the rules that we announced prior to Easter remain the rules as they stand today moving forward.

Remember the social distancing rules. Wash your hands regularly, maintain good personal hygiene and remain one-and-a-half metres from other people. It is important that you follow these rules. Tasmania is doing well at the moment but, as I’ve said, this is not over yet and we need to remain vigilant.

If you need any reminding of where we’re at, compared to where we could have been at, have a look at Italy, have a look at Spain, have a look at New York. The dreadful circumstances that arose in those countries and jurisdictions are a stark reminder of the fact that we have followed the rules, but it’s important that we continue to follow the rules to ensure that we can sensibly step our way out of this and start to reopen parts of our economy, reopen those parts of community life that people enjoy and look forward to. But we need to do that in a staged and stepped way, a sensible way, and we need to follow the rules as we work our way through it.

In terms of the North West, in just finishing on this point, I do want to thank them for the work and the way that they have stood up through this difficult period. We’re on top of that outbreak now. We will continue to do our testing, but it’s important that we remain vigilant. This is not a time for complacency.

Last week, I said that we would be reviewing the restrictions in the lead-up to the 15th of this month, and I want to outline the steps that we’ll be taking through the course of this week in terms of ensuring that people understand with clarity where we’re going and how we’re going to move our way through this.

Firstly, all existing restrictions will remain in place until the 15th of May, which is Friday of next week.

We have very strict rules in place in terms of aged care. They will be in place for another week. They will be lifted and we will start to transition back to the national position as of midnight of Monday of next week. That transition will be one that will allow for additional visits, but they will be managed and, importantly, will enable aged care to bring itself on line with the additional funding that’s been provided by the Commonwealth Government to ensure that appropriate screening and appropriate management of the facilities occur. But the rules will remain in place for aged care up until midnight of Monday of next week.

Tomorrow at National Cabinet, we’ll receive the expert advice from the AHPPC regarding their view of the timeframes that we should consider regarding the stepped process for lifting our restrictions. The National Cabinet will consider that advice, and on Friday of this week, National Cabinet will meet again and finalise its view on the way forward.

I do want to make this point, and I want to make it very clearly, Tasmania will continue to march to the beat of its own drum on this. We have an older and more vulnerable population, and it is important that we never lose sight of that. That has informed our decision-making from Day One and it will inform our decision-making as we step our way out of this.

It’s my expectation that post the National Cabinet meeting on Friday, I will be able to provide the road map out of our restrictions, based on Public Health advice. And we will look at that, and I’d expect that will be a three to four-stage process whereby there will be initial restrictions that we can look to lift, followed then by Stage 2 and Stage 3 and Stage 4, as we work our way through it. And I’ll be putting timeframes around those, so Tasmanians understand absolutely where we’re heading and what the steps will be.

Now, obviously, those timeframes, when released, will remain dependent upon Public Health advice at the time in terms of how we’re tracking in terms of our testing, the amount of virus that we’re detecting in our community, but also, importantly, whether or not we can track and trace and whether or not we have across the country the level of downloads that we need in terms of the COVID Safe app as well.

I want to just once again reiterate the steps this week.

For clarity, all of the restrictions will remain in place up until the 15th of May, excepting for aged care, which will remain in place for another week, until Monday next week to midnight, and then we will have a new process for aged care moving forward, and informed by Public Health.

Tomorrow, National Cabinet will receive that expert advice. On Friday, National Cabinet will then make a decision on a road map moving forward, and later on Friday afternoon I will outline the timeframes that Tasmania, based on Public Health advice, will follow.

That will mean that by this coming weekend, Tasmanians will understand very clearly what the steps out of this are, what the processes are and, importantly, what the rules will be as we move forward.

I’d expect, and as I’ve said, that one of the first restrictions that we would see lifted would be green space. I think it’s important that where we can that we do open our parks and our reserves and our beaches. Being based on Public Health advice on Friday, I’ll outline what the steps will be and when those spaces will open.

In terms of our plan to rebuild Tasmania and the steps that we take. I know this will be frustrating for Tasmanians, but I do want to make the point, and I want to urge Tasmanians to follow the rules. It is important that whilst we are in a good place that we take ourselves to a better place. It is important that we follow the rules, we keep people safe and we don’t become complacent. Complacency will take us back to where other countries are, other parts of the world where second and third waves are coming.

We want to ensure, as I said on Saturday, that we have a glide path out of this, that we can step our way sensibly and responsibly out of it, not a saw tooth, not one where we take restrictions off and then have to put them back on. I don’t want to see businesses recapitalise, only to be told in coming months that they need to be restricted again because we’ve had a further outbreak. It’s important that we follow the rules.

The other important point that I want to make today again is to remind people of those four safeguards that I outlined last week. Firstly, we’re increasing our testing. And over coming weeks we will double our testing capacity up to around 2,000 per day.

It’s important that we are able to track and trace, when the virus emerges that we can act very quickly. And our manual tracking and tracing teams have done a fantastic job, but we need the app to be downloaded. The more people that have the app, the better our ability to track and trace quickly.

We’re putting in place rapid response teams across the state to ensure that where the virus is detected that we can wrap a team around that quickly, that we can ensure that we track and trace and, importantly, that we isolate the virus when it emerges.

And, importantly, we’re working with businesses to ensure that they have their COVID safety plans in place, and we’ll need to look at COVID safety plans for public spaces, as well as businesses. And in the main, I have to say, that those businesses that are still operating have done a fantastic job in implementing the rules that have been provided to them through directions and orders. But by the 15th we will have through regulation, very clear overarching guidelines for existing businesses and then for those businesses that will open up into the future, they will need to go through a process and ensure that they have a COVID safety plan in place. That will ensure that we have confidence, both in terms of the staff that work in those businesses, but also in terms of customers when they want to utilise those businesses.

So, this week will be an important week for Tasmania. It’ll be the week that we outline the steps that we will take to return to more normality. But I do want to make this point, and I want to be very clear about this, we cannot get in front of ourselves. Social distancing will remain a part of our way of life until we find a vaccine. That has been made very clear.

So, importantly, make certain that you focus on personal hygiene, that you wash your hands regularly, that you only leave your home if you need to leave your home for any of those purposes. Importantly, remain one-and-a-half metres from other individuals and follow the rules.

On the weekend, I went North, and I did notice that there appeared to be more traffic on the roads. I know that some of the anecdotal reports that I’m receiving is that we’re seeing people starting to move around more. And I can understand why people are doing that. We’re in a good place. But can I just make the point that we have to follow the rules.

If we become complacent, then we risk another outbreak. We need to follow Public Health advice. We need to be sensible, we need to be responsible and, above all, we need to ensure that we don’t bring that virus home to our family, to those people that we love or into our community.

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