Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 11 AUGUST 2021

Premier Peter Gutwein

Since the start of COVID, our priority has been to keep Tasmania safe and secure. And that remains our number one priority.

The Delta strain though has changed things. It seriously impacts the lives of those living in New South Wales, and also Victoria and Queensland at the moment.

Over the past 24 hours here in Tasmania, another 1,263 laboratory tests have been undertaken. And I'm pleased to say that again, there are no positive cases that have emerged from that. This is good news.

As we near the end of one week since that incursion last week, we are now optimistic that the processes that we've had in place have worked. We'll continue to test, but our optimism increases each day that we won't see a further case arise as a result of that particular matter.

Public Health will continue to monitor manage the close contacts of the man currently in quarantine over the next seven days.

In relation to our borders, Queensland has today reported four new cases of COVID-19, all of which are in quarantine, which is promising news. Public Health authorities – noting that they just made the announcement in terms of Cairns – will monitor the number of cases today and tomorrow. And we'll provide a further update on Friday in terms of the circumstances around our border restrictions with Queensland.

Cairns and Yarrabah regions continue to be declared High Risk Level 2 under Stay At Home Orders for anyone who's been in those areas on or since 29 July remains in place that further update in terms of that, albeit that they have lifted the lockdown due to their confidence at the moment.

We're waiting on an update from New South Wales, which yesterday reported a record 356 cases along with three more deaths. Our thoughts are with the people of New South Wales. They're going through a very difficult time. The impact that the Delta strain is having in that state is tragic. And with no certainty on when that state will return to a more normal way of living.

It was concerning sad to hear the 350 people are in hospital and 60 people requiring ventilation and they've been 89 deaths. I understand the vast majority of those deaths have been unfortunately with people that weren't fully vaccinated.

Victoria has again today reported 20 new cases, and while authorities in that state appear to have a good understanding where their cases are coming from, in the last five days, there have been 91 cases.

Unfortunately, two thirds of those cases – more than two thirds – have been infectious whilst in the community, which is very worrying.

What is obvious is that Delta has changed everything. Victoria and New South Wales are now combating a new health and economic crisis. Vaccination is the key, it will save lives. And importantly, it will reduce the risk of you ending up in hospital and it will reduce the risk of death.

Today, I'm announcing a four point Delta Shield Plan that we're going to put into place immediately. It will involve:

  1. Borders and strengthening the processes that we have there.
  2. A vaccination blitz
  3. Strengthen testing, tracking and tracing
  4. A business support package

In terms of strengthening our borders, our restrictions have worked well, and they protected us. But as I've said, Delta is different. We need to learn from the lessons that have, unfortunately played out in other states.

We need to continuously review our procedures and strengthen them were appropriate as systems work but what is evident, we're seeing more people now starting to flee other states as well, putting pressure on our borders, and also, putting pressure on other states and territory borders as well.

For those people that arrive at our borders, and have previously been rejected and told not to come because they've been in a high risk area, the on the spot fine, will increase to $1,557. On Friday, this week, as soon as the paperwork is in place.

That same level of fine will extend to anyone that breaches quarantine requirements. The current on-the-spot fine of $774.80, will increase to more than $1,557.

Infringements for failing to use the Check in Tas App will remain at the $774.80, and Police will start to issue infringement notices where people flaunt the rules whilst going about our community.

We've had an educative approach. Businesses have worked with us; the community has worked with us; and in the main Tasmanians are doing the right thing.

But this is not the time to be complacent. And we will start issuing infringement notices where people blatantly breach those rules.

New South Wales will continue to be classified as High Risk Level One for the foreseeable future.

The fate of New South Wales is in the hands of the New South Wales Government and the people of New South Wales, but we are going to keep out very strong border arrangements in place.

With regards to Victoria, we plan to remain closed to Victoria for at least the next two weeks, and potentially for up to four weeks, depending on how the situation in that state plays out, and while our Delta Shield Plan is implemented.

So we will have strong border controls in place in terms of New South Wales, Victoria and obviously we will update in terms of Queensland this week.

In terms of our borders, and as I've said on a number of occasions, our laws don't reach to pass our borders. And what we've been working on is ensuring that when people are looking to catch a flight or get on the Spirit, is that they're provided with information.

We're going to increase our notifications at airports.

Currently we are in Melbourne and Sydney where we've got staff, and we'll be extending that to Brisbane as well.

This will also include electronic signage and additional material that will be handed to people before they get onto a flight or on the Spirit. And I have to say that the Spirit has been doing a great job at this.

Obviously, it is difficult when people are challenging the rules, but at the end of the day, our systems are holding up and we want to ensure that we provide as little dislocation to people as possible.

We will do everything that we possibly can, but if somebody arrives here and they have been previously rejected, and they haven't accepted the advice in either Melbourne Sydney and Brisbane or at the Spirit, then we will fine them. It is as simple as that, and the fine will be a doubling of the current infringement notice to $1,557.

Second part of our plan, we are going to run a super six week vaccine blitz. Currently our vaccine program leads the country. However, with Delta, we need to do more. I'd encourage Tasmanians to do what they can, turn up and get vaccinated.

As part of our work to further strengthen the state's defences, the Department of Health will commence the super six week campaign to boost our vaccination rate well into the mid 60 per cent by mid September.

We'll do this by commencing a program to vaccinate college students, 16 to 18 year olds, from the 23rd of this month with the timing selected in conjunction with the Department of Education to best suit examination rescheduling.

We're going to open our clinics on extra days and will extend hours in all state community clinics statewide to target our 30 to 59 year olds.

Pharmacies will also be brought online more quickly. And we're currently engaged with the Commonwealth and with Public Health on that.

It's important that Tasmanians can have an opportunity to be vaccinated.

This is on top of the 70,000 plus bookings in our system.

By looking at vaccination rates in the 30 to 59 age group, we can bring forward a vaccination of the 16 to 29 age group and we'll open that in the first weeks of September.

To do this will require some sharing of resources right across our health system.

Whilst we have the protection of our borders, the simple message is that what we want to get on and vaccinate as quickly as we can, noting that, obviously, we need to deal with within the constraints of supply.

The third part of our program will be to strengthen our testing, tracking and tracing system.

In relation to our testing, tracking and tracing system, I’ve tasked the Secretary of Health, along with Public Health, with engaging with their in state counterparts to understand the lessons from New South Wales and Victoria to implement any improvements from the experiences of those two jurisdictions in relation to managing the Delta strain.

It is good clinical practice and Public Health is engaged with the AHPPC on a daily basis, and we are engaged with the clinicians in those days.

But there are lessons and, New South Wales, unfortunately, is learning the hard way. We need to ensure that we learn from those challenges that they face, and where necessary, we implement what we can here.

Already in Tasmania, we have a workforce of up to 200 people available within the state to track and trace, should an outbreak occur.

We've spent significant time and resources ensuring that people are ready and able to do that work. But due to the rapid transmission rates and high infectivity that the Delta virus, we’re going to include contracting additional external surge workforce tracers, which will effectively double our workforce should the need arise.

Delta is different. I can't stress that enough. As part of this program, it will also include strengthening their systems and IT support to ensure that our systems can effectively support remote tracking and tracing services and engage with an external surge workforce when it needs to.

The fourth part of our plan – we know that we're going to need to provide additional business support.

I've had some very positive conversations this week with the Federal Government. I spoke last night with the Federal Treasurer. And later this week, I expect that we'll be able to announce a package for those businesses that rely heavily on Interstate travel from across the eastern seaboard. Bearing in mind that in terms of our interstate visitation, Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales, provide between 70 and 80% of our visitation to the state. And obviously, New South Wales is out for some time; Victoria for at least the next couple of weeks; and Queensland, we’ll review on Friday.

But there are impacts that are occurring for our businesses. In terms of the package that we've been discussing, and as I said, I'll have more detail later this week, but it will be for those key sectors impacted by border restrictions, being tourism, hospitality, arts and events; and those transport services that rely on high visitation rates, such as hire car and coach tour.

The support will be available for those businesses, which have been impacted from late June which is when New South Wales first put in place it's lockdown.

I would hope that applications would be able to open next week, but I'll provide more detail later this week, once we finalized our discussions with the Commonwealth.

I do want to touch on football and this week's game. Public Health has given significant consideration to the game of AFL that is scheduled to be played in Launceston this weekend between Hawthorn and the Western Bulldogs. It has been determined that, given the improved situation in Launceston, and the fact that our border with Victoria will remain closed, and therefore no Victorians can attend the game, that the sheduled game this week at UTAS stadium will proceed in a COVID safe manner.

Teams are already in COVID Bubbles, players are tested up to three times a week, and they need to provide a negative test prior to traveling.

They'll fly in and out on the day on chartered plabes and through the established COVID-safe corridors that have been used in the past. The teams and a small number of support staff will not have any contact with our community.

Masks will be required to be worn at the game and the crowd will be capped at 10,000.

I want to remind Tasmanians that we are at a very critical point.

The experience of the two major states in dealing with this virus provides sobering information in terms of the risk that is present just over our fence, just over our moat.

And it's important that we do what we can here in the state to ensure that we are in the best possible place to ensure that we can protect the health and safety Tasmanians.

I would again remind Tasmanians please do the important things. Stay on top of COVID, follow COVID-safe behaviors, check in at premises, get tested if you're unwell.

And importantly, don't wait – vaccinate.