It was the 2nd of March that Tasmania had confirmation of its first coronavirus case. We have since that time focused on ensuring that we look after the health, wellbeing and safety of Tasmanians.
Sadly, people have lost lives, and we’ve seen an impact on our State unlike anything in recent history, both economically and in terms of the health impact. Businesses have closed and jobs have been lost.
As a Government we’ve stepped in, and we’ve unleashed the largest economic and social rescue package that any State Government has ever considered in the past.
Tasmanians, I have to say, have been outstanding in their unity and trueness, and they have all worked so very hard, in the main, to ensure that we can get to the place that we’re in today.
The staying home message was one that was heard by Tasmanians and I want to thank them for their efforts in that, right throughout this pandemic. Importantly, staying home did save lives, amid restricting personal freedoms and Tasmanians have put their shoulders to the wheels.
Because of the hard work and discipline, we’ve reached today a very significant milestone.
Today, after more than three months, I’m pleased to report that we’ve once again had no more positive cases yesterday and, importantly, we have no active cases in Tasmania as of today.
It’s now 27 days since we’ve had a positive case, so it’s an important milestone to both have another day without a positive case, importantly, to have no active cases in the state at the moment.
That’s something that Tasmanians should be proud of.
But I do want to say that this is not over, that this is a pandemic that is racking the rest of the world.
More than 400,000 people have died.
It has affected countries that have not taken the steps that Australia and states like Tasmania have taken so quickly and swiftly, and countries are in desperate straits right around the world.
It is important whilst we move forward that we take steps as and when we can to provide people back their liberties and freedoms, and today I’m very pleased, and it was something that was discussed at National Cabinet, it’s been discussed with Public Health, that we’re in a position where we can ease some of our restrictions earlier than what we thought we were going to be able to.
From Wednesday of next week, 12 noon, we will have a further lifting of restrictions. That will be at the halfway mark of the three-week journey we are now on to Friday 26th of June, a fortnight from today, when we would look at our Stage 3 restrictions.
But from Wednesday next week, from 12 noon, we’ll be lifting restrictions that will allow 80 people to attend indoor and outdoor gatherings, based on social distancing rules, obviously, in terms of the four-square-metre rule.
But this will apply to gyms, it’ll apply to pubs and restaurants and hospitality venues, it will apply to weddings and funerals.
In terms of residential household visits, we will lift limits from 10 people visiting a home to 20.
There is a long list of activities that we will look at over the next couple of days, but the expectation is that in the main grouping size will come to 80 across the board.
Public Health need to look at some manners in terms of swimming pools and matters like that, and we will work through those in coming days. The intention is that we will get to 80 across the board, if we can, subject to social distancing and the one per four-square-metre rule for small venues.
I want to be absolutely clear about so that a venue doesn’t hear what I say today and think that, you beauty, we can have 80 people in next week. If you’ve got floor space of 100 square metres, you will be able to have 25 people in that venue, based on the four square-metre rule.
COVID safety plans take effect on Monday, so it’s timely that this next step comes into play on Wednesday. It will provide businesses and other facilities the opportunity to ensure that they have their COVID safety plans in place.
Next week we’ll also be considering restrictions on aged care homes and facilities, and we’ll have more to say about that next week and, importantly, our message to the aged care homes and facilities is that we will work with you, so that you can put your plans in place, that we understand how important it is for both those that are resident in those facilities but also the families and loved one that want to visit that they have the opportunity to do so more often and more regularly. But we’ll be working with aged care facilities on that plan next week.
As I’ve mentioned, Stage 3 restrictions, we’re planning to lift on 26th June. We’ll take Public Health advice over the next couple of weeks as we work towards that, but at the moment we are confident that the pathway that we’re on is one that is working.
But, importantly, I do want to make this point to Tasmanians, if you have a sniffle, if you had a sniffle in the last seven days, turn up and get tested, use the mobile clinics and get tested.
Our testing has been very solid, but we need to understand where it is this virus might be, so please, Tasmanians, continue to get tested, and ensure that you are cognisant of your own personal hygiene, wash your hands regularly, that you sneeze into an elbow or a tissue and throw it away. It’s important that you follow the rules.
With the Stage 3 restrictions on the 26th June, what we’ll be looking to do there, subject to Public Health advice, is removing the caps and going by density requirement in the venues. So, rather than setting a cap on the number of people that can be in a particular venue or indoors in any particular facility, we’ll be looking at introducing a density rule, i.e. one person per four square metres, which would mean that if you’ve got a 400 square metre venue, that you can have 100 people in it. If you’ve got a larger venue, then obviously you’d be able to have more people in it.
We’re also looking at, as the Prime Minister has mentioned today, stadium caps, and the numbers of people that can go to one of our stadiums.
There’s an aspiration of up to 25% for stadiums. In Tasmania’s case for example, with our stadiums being around the 20,000 to 25,000 mark, that would be 4,000 to 5,000 people, depending on the stadium itself.
In terms of outdoor sport, on the 26th June, we’d expect community sport would be able to resume with crowds of up to 500 people.
In terms of indoor sport, that would be dependent upon the density that the venue could carry, based on the one per four square metre rule.
The other matter that I want to raise today as well is that in terms of our borders.
Stage 3 contemplated making a decision on when the borders would open. I’m not going to set a date today. I’ve said consistently that we would look at this in July.
We’ve done better than we thought and over the next two weeks, we’ll work with Public Health [inaudible] the date sometime later in July when our borders might be able to be opened up again.
Obviously, we will have a keen eye to what’s occurring in other jurisdictions, but I always made that point, we won’t open our borders unless it’s safe to do so. But with the level of transmission that’s occurring around the country, many states and territories that are in a similar position to Tasmania, we have confidence that we can start to plan for the opening of our borders sometime later in July.
I do want to make the point though to Tasmanians that, yesterday we launched the Make Yourself at Home campaign, and I would encourage Tasmanians now that they have free movement around the state, and I was in Bridport over the weekend myself and I know that a lot of Tasmanians took up the opportunity to look at and spend some time in Bridport, one of the most beautiful locations that we have in Tasmania, in my opinion.
I’d encourage Tasmanians to get out and travel, see more of this beautiful state, ensure you support our businesses. I would encourage you to plan for the school holidays to be spent in Tasmania.
In terms of the border restrictions, we’ll make a decision on that in coming weeks, but I would hope that you could spend time in Tasmania, having a look at the very good things that we’ve got, supporting our businesses, as we work through this very difficult time.
I will say, and it’s interesting, I did say in this room, you know, a little over two-and-a-half months ago, I think it was, and I actually said that what I really needed Tasmanians to do was to stay at home, sit on the couch and watch Netflix.
What I’d like to ask Tasmanians to now is to get off the couch, get out of their house and go and make their own movie somewhere in this beautiful state.
I think there’s a real opportunity for Tasmanians to take the opportunity to share in what is so special about Tasmania at the moment. Our businesses will welcome you, our regional communities will welcome you and, importantly, this is one of the most magnificent spots in the world, and I’d encourage you to spend some time in it and enjoying it.
I’ll hand over to Dr Veitch to provide further update from Public Health, but in closing this and before I take questions, I do want to say thank you to Tasmanians.
This has been a journey that’s been nothing like I had ever expected, and I’m certain it’s nothing like any other Tasmanian expected.
But we worked hard. Tasmanians in the main have followed the rules, we’ve got to a very good place. As a result we’ll be able to lift further restrictions earlier.
The most important thing though is that we all use or common sense.
There is a worldwide pandemic that is raging, that is killing people all around the world.
This country and this state have made some tough decisions, and it’s stood us in very good stead.
But we’re not out of the pandemic yet, and we need to continue to be sensible, follow common sense, do the right thing, and we will get through it.