Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 11 APRIL 2020

Premier Peter Gutwein

Keeping Tasmanians safe from coronavirus has been our number one priority and our best chance to make that happen is for people to abide by the rules and stay at home.

I was deeply saddened, as were all the members of Government and health professionals, at the loss of a fourth Tasmanian yesterday to COVID-19.

The man, in his late 70s, was an inpatient at the North West Regional Hospital, and again I would like to, on behalf of my Government, express my deepest sympathies to his family, friends and loved ones.

Yesterday, unfortunately, we confirmed another 11 cases of coronavirus, bringing our total to 122 positive cases. It is worthwhile pointing out that 52 people have now passed through this, and have beaten the disease. We have total of 71 positive cases at the moment in the state.

It’s been discussed in the media that Tasmania as a state in one jurisdiction is at very high risk to the challenge of coronavirus in terms of the demographics that we have, and that is statement of fact. We have a vulnerable community, an older community, a community that has, in certain parts of its population, more examples of underlying health challenges and other difficulties that people face.

That is one of the reasons why we have been so strident in the position we’ve taken in ensuring that people follow the rules. It’s why we put in place the border controls sooner than states; it’s why we led in terms of cruise ships; it’s why we put in place the very strict rules in terms of shacks and coastal communities. Because we want to protect the most vulnerable Tasmanians, and it’s important that we all play our part to do that.

We have an outbreak on the NW coast, that is across our health facilities. It’s a challenge we need to acknowledge, accept and, importantly, respond to swiftly.

The challenge of an outbreak in a health facility is not new to this pandemic across the world and the country. Other hospitals in Australia have had outbreaks. But this is one we must deal with, and take every necessary step we can to ensure that we limit the progression of this disease into our community through community transmission.

One decision we made yesterday is that we need to “ring fence” and to take a helicopter view in terms of how we’re managing the NWRH and the NW Private.

And yesterday, operational control for the purposes of outbreak management, was taken from the NW Private, and that will now be managed by the Outbreak Management Tea.

The Minister for Health outlined the steps we’re taking yesterday to ensure we have a consistent tracking and tracing regime in place, not only for the NWRH but also for the NW Private.

The Minister and Dr Veitch this morning will outline other steps and measures that we will be taking to ensure we can control this outbreak and, importantly, that we can ensure the transmission of this disease does not step out into the community.

I say to the staff and frontline health workers on the NW Coast, that this is a particularly difficult time for you. We understand that. It’s a particularly difficult time for the community you are embedded in.

We will do everything we possibly can to support you. We will do everything we possibly can in taking the steps that we will be taking this morning to ensure that we quarantine this disease, that we take the necessary steps, and some of them will be difficult. We ask that you work with us to ensure we get on top of this, and control this outbreak.

Ring fencing is what we need to do, and ring fencing is what we are going to do.

I want to touch, just briefly, on the actions of Tas Police in the last couple of days. What has been really comforting has been a lot of positive feedback from the Tasmanian community, in terms of how people have been behaving and abiding by the rules. But not everybody has been. And as I said on Thursday, we need to ensure that we get on top of this and ensure Tasmanians do listen and heed the rules, because at the end of the day, this is about ensuring that we protect a vulnerable community, that we protect those people that we love.

Professor Lawler said the other day, don’t bring this disease back into your home, don’t bring this disease to your pregnant sister, don’t bring this disease to your parents, don’t bring this disease to your children. That is why we are applying these very strict rules.

In the main, most Tasmanians have been following them.

However, yesterday, we did have 90 people, by late afternoon, who had been turned around heading to the coast or where they shouldn’t have been, many with campervans and camper trailers. This is not on. We need to protect these coastal communities.

Twenty people have been directed to leave their shacks and to return to their primary residence, and four people have been charged.

These penalties are harsh, up to $16,800 or up to six months in jail. And at the end of the day, the reason these penalties are there, the reason that these rules are in place, is that we want Tasmanians to be protected. We want to protect you. We want to protect your family, we want to protect your parents, your children, the communities in which you live. So we ask you to abide by the rules. Do what is necessary and ensure we don’t take this disease into parts of the state where it would have a devastating effect.

Yesterday, in terms of the circumstances in the NW, was a difficult day. And there will be difficult days in front of us as we work our way through this.

But what we need to do is take every step, every measure, that we can control this and contain it, and our tracking and tracing will be aggressive, and importantly, the quarantine measures we are announcing today, will ensure that we have the best possible opportunity to do that.

We ask that people who are affected, they work with us, and their families work with us.

Because, very simply, we need to ring fence this. We need to get on top of it. We need to ensure that community transmission doesn’t occur.

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