Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania


Premier Peter Gutwein

This morning I have Prof Tony Law and Dr Mark Veitch with me. The Health Minister is in the North of the state and will be visiting health facilities today.

So, I want to say in starting, the most importantly message to Tasmanians continues to be, stay at home and save lives. This is increasingly becoming more important, and Tasmanians need to understand that this is serious and abide by the rules.

It’s important, because last night we confirmed four more cases of coronavirus in Tasmania, bringing our total to 86. I can confirm this morning that two of those cases related to cruise travel and the other and one other to the contact of a previously known case, respectably with both of those people in quarantine.

The other two cases relate to the North West Regional Hospital cluster, in fact to the North West outbreak that we’re seeing at the moment. We have a health worker and a patient both identified as testing positive and in terms of the detail, the Director of Public Health and Prof Tony Lawler will provide more detail on that.

I want to say a few words for our North West community. It is important that you understand that this is serious. I cannot stress just how serious this is in terms of ensuring that you abide by the rules. An investigation’s underway which will obviously include the identification and contacts both in the community and within the hospital. It will look at the risk to staff, patients and visitors to the hospital. We are throwing additional resources at this. The CIB and members of police will be assisting the Public Health effort as we look to work through this and get to the bottom of this situation.

I want to very clearly say that we will aggressively track and trace contacts, and in terms of the incident management teams that have been established, they will do everything they possibly can to get to the bottom of this.

I want to say to people that whilst it is concerning, this will not be the last time that we will see this type of outbreak at a hospital in Tasmania. I want to be clear about that. I don’t want to normalise it, because it is something that we have to deal with and treat as very serious but, importantly, for those people that live on the North West Coast, the message could not be stronger nor firmer than right now to ensure that you abide by the rules, that you take into account the rules relating to social distancing, that you stay at home, unless you are travelling to work or to volunteer, unless you’re going out for essential services or medical supplies, unless you’re going to school or to study, if that can’t be done at home and, importantly, unless you’re going out to exercise. The measures will stand us in good stead, but we need to ensure that we stick to the rules.

It’s a wake-up call. This is serious. This is deadly. It has already taken lives and, as I’ve said before, unfortunately it will take more. So, please, stay home and save lives. Avoid travelling between places.

That’s why we have introduced the measures such as not going to your shack or launching a boat outside of your municipality where your primary residence is. I’d urge you, unless you need to travel outside of the North West region for work or for one of these other purposes, don’t. And if you’re in the South or the North of the state, if you don’t need to travel outside of your region, don’t. It’s important that you follow the rules.

I want to just say a couple of words in regard to supermarkets and Big Boxes and retail. Going out and purchasing essential supplies is one thing, going out and browsing and having a family outing is entirely another. It is entirely unacceptable and, to be frank, it is irresponsible in terms of the health of the community, the health of your family, those that you love, and I would urge you to think very carefully about the reasons that you would go out.

There have been concerns raised by members of the public and staff about the number of people that are attending large supermarkets and larger Big Box stores.

I know that from today, Coles and Woollies have announced that they were introducing new rules for Ester, allowing only set numbers into their stores, a one in one out policy, including queuing outside to ensure that people are appropriately socially distancing as well outside.

This type of sensible management needs to be extended across all retail stores, whether you are a large supermarket, a Big Box, K-Mart, Bunnings who have already, as I understand it, taken some considerable measures inside their stores. But this type of sensible management needs to be extended. Maximum numbers should be based on the social distancing policy. Four square meters per person.  And this needs to be based on aisle space, on the space that people can actually move about in, not just on the total gross floor space.

Queuing stations need to be identified and clearly set out outside of these larger stores. I want to make the point, if car park space needs to be given up to ensure that you got space, so that people can appropriately socially distance, we would expect you to give up car park space.  And if needed in these larger stores, if security is required to assist you, then it is our expectation that you will employ appropriate security as well.

This is serious, and we need to get on top of too many people congregating. The application of social distancing needs to be followed. It should be followed by retailers, whether small or large.

And I want to be clear, if we don’t get this right, if the rules aren’t followed, then I will have no other option than to shut you down. I don’t want to do that, but if that’s where we need to get to and that we need to identify only essential retail, then that is what we will do. But I want to provide everybody with a very clear message that you need to manage this appropriately. And if it’s not, unfortunately then we will take further steps.

I just want to touch on and acknowledge the case of Roger Chappell and his wife Marianne that was on the front page of one of the papers today. These are very difficult circumstances. As a father I understand the desire to be there at the birth of a child. I’m sorry that that could not occur. These are though very, very difficult times, and whilst, unfortunately, Mr Chappell couldn’t be there at the birth of his child, I do make no apologies for the strict rules that we have in place.

We will do our very best to work with people, and where exemptions can be provided we will but, unfortunately, in this case, one wasn’t able to be provided, for whatever reason, and as I say, you know, unfortunately Mr Chappell wasn’t able to be there with his wife Marianne, and that’s obviously disappointing for them, and certainly we will try to do what we can in terms of compassionate intentions.

But these are extraordinary times, and I would ask that people would work with us and accept that these are difficult, challenging circumstances and everybody is attempting to do their very best to manage our way through these.

I want to say, importantly, we will, importantly, get through this and to the other side. But it’s important that we all follow the rules. Stay at home and save lives. If you don’t need to go out to work or volunteer, if you don’t need to go out to get essential supplies or medical services, if you don’t need to go to school or to study, if that can’t be done at your home, if you don’t need to exercise, stay at home. Stay at home and save lives.

As a community we all have to pull together. It is important that we do at this particular time. And it is important that we all have an eye to Easter coming up. This is not a time to let our guard down. This is a time to determine, one and all of us, that we will not put our communities at risk, that we will follow the rules, that we will do everything that we possibly can to protect those people that we love, to protect our communities, to protect our families and protect all of Tasmania. And I would ask people to work with us.