Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 5 MARCH 2021

Premier Peter Gutwein

Good afternoon everyone.

Today with me, Katherine Morgan-Wicks, the Secretary of Health, and also Dr Shannon Melody who is a specialist medical advisor with Public Health Tasmania and is working with our vaccination rollout team.

Obviously, this will be going on for some time.

It’s important that you get to meet some of the senior team as we’re working our way through this, as we may be interchanging people at different stages as we work through.

But if I could start by saying that today marks the finish of our second week, rolling out what is one of the largest health logistical exercises in our country’s history, and certainly in our state’s history.

We currently have no restrictions in place between our state and the rest of the country, and Tasmania continues to be in a good place.

But I do want to say once again,  I’d ask all Tasmanians to continue to do the right thing.

I know, at times it’s difficult, but the one thing that we’ve got to keep on top of is complacency.

Now, our focus will continue to be on protecting the health and safety of Tasmanians, and this week we’ll continue to vaccinate our priority and high-risk groups.

I’m pleased to report that we are on track, and Kath will provide more detail in a moment in terms of that.

However, over the second week of our state-based rollout, we have now vaccinated 1,168 people from priority group at the Royal Hobart Hospital, bringing our total to 2,327 Tasmanians to being vaccinated over the first two weeks.

These have included frontline health workers, paramedics and quarantine and border staff, including some police officers as well.

Once again, this is a really positive outcome.

With immunisers continuing to regularly get six doses out of each vial of the vaccine, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our highly-trained and professional staff who are doing a great job each and every day.

And this will go on for some time and, you know, I know that they will receive both the support of our community and in their workplaces as we work forward, but I just really want to thank them, it’s so very important.

The next delivery of the Pfizer vaccine, another tray of 195 vials, will arrive on Sunday, and we’ll continue the vaccination program of priority groups at the Royal Hobart Hospital from Tuesday.

The vaccination program will start at the Launceston General Hospital and the North West Regional Hospital in Burnie on 15th March as planned, and our aim continues to have fully vaccinated Tasmania’s priority population of around 14,000 people by mid-April.

There’s also been some commentary and interest around the AstraZeneca vaccine, and I’m pleased to announce that we will shortly be in receipt of an additional 6,720 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, that’s 840 vials from which we will be able to extract up to eight doses from each of those vials.

What this means is that we’ll be able to move through to vaccinate more Tasmanians sooner.

The rollout of this will include the AstraZeneca clinics at the Royal Hobart Hospital and settings like the Roy Fagan Centre in the coming week, as well as bringing forward the start of our 1B, which is the second phase, by two weeks to 19th of March.

Tasmanians in the 1B cohort include people aged 70 and over, our remaining healthcare workers, Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islanders, adults with underlying medical conditions and critical and high-risk workers, including Defence, Police, Fire, Emergency Services, and obviously volunteers that volunteer with our emergency services, and meat processing.

The initial rollout of AstraZeneca in Tasmania, as around the rest of the country, it will be slow and steady, and it is pleasing I’m getting an increasing number of people wanting to know when is their turn, and I think that’s really positive.

I’d refer you to the website and to the material that’s been provided through most of our daily papers quite regularly in terms of the rollout phases.

Next week, we’ll provide more details on how people in Phase 1B will be able to book their appointments, how the vaccinations will be conducted at both state-run clinics and a number of GP clinics around the state starting later this month.

The number of clinics delivering vaccinations will slowly increase as the supply of the vaccine increases.

Regarding the Commonwealth’s program, I’m advised it’s continuing to be rolled out and continue next week in residential aged and disability care facilities across the state.

So, while we’re still in the early days of this massive task, things are going well, and I’d like to thank every Tasmanian who has lined up to get their vaccine so far and every worker who is helping us to make this program run smoothly.

But there’s still a long way to go, as I’ve said, and as I have always pointed out, it’s important that we continue with our COVID-safe behaviours.

Follow the restrictions that we do have in place, wear masks at our airports, don’t turn up to work or other events if you’re sick, even just a little bit sick, make sure that you go and get tested.

Importantly, the vaccine is safe, it’s effective and it’s free.

While it won’t be the silver bullet, as I’ve mentioned on a number of occasions, it will help us return to a more normal way of life over time.

So, please, when it’s your turn, roll up your sleeve and get the jab.

I’ll now hand over to Kath Morgan-Wicks to provide a more detailed report.

Thanks Kath.