Premier Peter Gutwein
As I’ve said on so many occasions in this room that looking after the safety and the health of Tasmanians is our number one priority.
Importantly, today I want to explain our position on our borders, and I want to provide some context to that and outline what we will be doing.
Firstly, right now the situation in Victoria is of real concern. Nearly 300 cases today, and obviously that state has a range of significant challenges in front of it.
We have provided some level of assistance, and we will be providing more assistance in coming days in terms of assisting them w tracking and tracing to enable them to get on top of this as quickly as possible.
But I know many Tasmanians would know and have friends and family in Victoria and, obviously, our best wishes are with that community as they work their way through this.
Importantly, we know from our experience in the North West just how challenging this can be and how rapidly this virus can spread, and it’s important that you get on top of it as quickly as you possibly can.
Limiting people movement limits the spread of the virus, and that’s exactly what they’ve done in Victoria, and it’s one of the key reasons why we’ve had strong border protections in place ourselves here in Tasmania.
When we announced the date of the 24th, I indicated very clearly then that we would use the time to assess on a week-by-week basis what was occurring, and in fact, to be frank, we’ve been doing that on a day-by-day basis in terms of trying to get an understanding of what’s occurring around the country and what it means for Tasmania.
Importantly, I said at the time that it would provide us with the time and opportunity to understand the level of risk and what it meant to the state in terms of lowering our borders.
I said earlier this week that as a result of the circumstances that are occurring in Victoria that we would not open to Victoria on the 24th and, obviously, for some period of time we will not open to them at all, bearing in mind that they have a six-week period that they have locked down the greater metropolitan area of Melbourne and, obviously, they are facing a range of significant challenges.
It’s important in considering our own border circumstance what might occur across the country in coming weeks, and one of our considerations in looking at whether or not we would open our borders on the 24th was whether or not we would have a clear understanding of what’s occurring in other jurisdictions by then.
As a case in point, obviously I’ve referenced New South Wales as being a state that in the main has had very little community transmission, in fact has captured most of the virus-positive cases in quarantine as a result of international travel. But, obviously, they have considered and formed the view that Victoria is of significant risk, and they put a hard border in-between New South Wales and Victoria this week.
What’s interesting is that there have been now more than 180,000 permits for travel across that border that have been issued.
There’s obviously major fright routes and movement across that border, and I think in terms of New South Wales it will bear watching in terms of the spread of the virus.
In terms of other jurisdictions, today Queensland have opened their borders, and it will be the first time that there has been mass movement of people from around the country to one location and, again, that will serve to inform our decisions moving forward.
The ACT has already announced that it has seen positive cases in terms of the Victorian outbreak, and it is working hard to get on top of those issues there.
South Australia remains clear at this stage but, obviously, there were significant people movements from Victoria into South Australia prior to the border being closed.
Taking all of those matters into account and based on Public Health advice, we will be deferring the opening of our borders on the 24th for at last one week, if not longer.
We will provide an update on the 24th of this month in terms of what next steps will be, but it’s important, as we have stepped through this carefully and cautiously and responsibly, that we use these next couple of weeks to gain a full understanding of just what the outbreak in Victoria means for the rest of the country.
I hope, as I am sure most Australians do, that Victoria will get on top of it and we won’t see community transmission occur in those other states to a great degree.
But we are in the fortunate position in Tasmania of having one of the safest places in the country and, importantly, we need to ensure that we maintain that position as we move forward and only open up when we are confident that the safety of Tasmanians, both whilst travelling but also when they return to Tasmania, in terms of local communities and local families that they aren’t put at risk.
And so, on that basis the decision’s been made that the borders will not open on the 24th. They’ll be deferred for at least a week, as I’ve said, if not longer, whilst we understand what is occurring around the rest of the country.