Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 13 AUGUST 2021

Premier Peter Gutwein

The Delta strain has changed everything and continues to cause serious issues across Australia, especially in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and unfortunately now the ACT.

At every step, we’re working to keep Delta out of Tasmania to prevent serious impacts on our health system, our community and our economy.

Earlier this week, we announced the 4 Point Delta Shield Plan: stronger border controls, which I’ve announced a range of measures on; strengthening our testing; tracking and tracing systems, ensuring that we can effectively double our workforce capacity; and a business support package, which I'll speak more about in a moment, and obviously our Super Six vaccine blitz.

I like to just touch on that to begin with.

Our aim is to have more than 63% of our population, our eligible population, having had a first dose by mid-September.

Right now, we're currently sitting at 52.1%, importantly, we have more than 30% of our population that has now had its second dose, compared to a national average of 24%.

And, important we’re leading all states and territories at the moment again, so thank you Tasmanians.

The key targets of the six-week blitz are Tasmanians aged 30 to 59 years, as we explained that earlier this week, a continued push for over 60s, and are 16 to 18 year old college students, and the cohort that are in Government extension schools.

We expect, on the trajectory that we have set, to be able to open vaccines fully to 16 to 29 year olds from around mid-September, knowing that we already are providing options for that age cohort, if they have an underlying health condition or they're a frontline worker, or an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

We've now added more than 5,000 appointments at our community clinics across the state over the last 24 hours.

We're also organising the clinics to vaccinate our 16 to 18 year old college students at their school from 23rd August.

The schools program will include all of our colleges, as well as all of our Tasmanian Government Year 11 and 12 extension schools, as well as Independent and Catholic schools as well.

The program will be structured so that the students’ examination and other assessment processes are not disrupted, and the timing of this is based on advice from the Education Department.

The first of these schools will be Elizabeth College in the South. Our rollout plan for the North and North West is currently being finalised, but I’d say to parents and students that the schools will provide information in terms of how this will work in your individual location, so there's no need to be concerned, we'll be providing plenty of information as it rolls out.

The training and on-boarding of our community pharmacies started this week with the first tranche of 11 pharmacies joining the blitz, and the first of those vaccinating Tasmanians from today.

Importantly, in terms of our super six plan and the discussions that we've been having with the Commonwealth, I'm very pleased that in total 46 pharmacies, now over coming days, will join the program, which I think is very positive.

Importantly, while we continue to strengthen our position against Delta cases continuing in Victoria, our borders with that state will remain closed for the next two to four weeks, borders with New South Wales, as I've said, will remain closed for the foreseeable future, as they work through the challenges they have.

In terms of Queensland and the two Local Government Areas in Far North Queensland near Cairns, our borders with those 11 LGAs and the two LGAs in Far North Queensland will remain closed at this time.

The position will be assessed over the coming days with an update on Monday, so they will remain high-risk Level 2, as they are at a moment, but with an update on Monday, and we'll take further advice over the weekend in regards to that.

Yesterday, as we’re aware, a positive case was detected in the ACT.

They declared a seven-day lockdown.

We responded very quickly, from 5pm yesterday, anyone who has been in the ACT on or since the 5th of August will not be permitted to enter Tasmania, unless approved as an essential traveller. If approved, that person will be subject to a 14-day quarantine in a suitable premises.

So, Tasmanians can still come home, but they need to apply and be approved, and then they will go quarantine at home.

It also means that all Tasmanians who arrived in Tasmania from 5pm yesterday who've been in the ACT on or since the 5th of August, must isolate and follow the stay at home restrictions.

While we don't have a positive case in Tasmania, there's no doubt that restrictions in other jurisdictions have a flow-on effect to businesses and people here.

That’s why as a part of our Delta Shield Plan, as I announced earlier this week, we are putting in place a comprehensive business support package.

I'm very pleased in terms of the arrangements that we've been able to arrive at with the Commonwealth where we will share a package, a $20-million package in total, $10 million provided by the State, $10 million provided by the Commonwealth.

The engagement from the Federal Treasurer this week has been brilliant.

We've had a number of conversations, and they have been very prepared to step up and to support us in this unusual situation, and I say unusual in that these are second order impacts that we are looking to deal with here.

We're not in lockdown.

All packages in the past have been framed around being in lockdown and in direct support as a result.

This package is designed to assist the state on the basis that the interstate border lockdowns that are occurring are impacting on those who want to travel to the state and detrimentally impacting on those businesses that would normally be supported by those travellers. That is, businesses that are operating tourism, hospitality, arts and events, seafood and transport, including hire car and coach tours, as well as those who have been impacted directly.

If I could make this point by the type of example that we're talking about there, if you were a large laundry and your role is to support major hotels who aren’t filling their beds, then your business has been impacted as well.

But the rule will be the same as we applied before in terms of eligibility, you must have been impacted by at least a 30% reduction in turnover.

Importantly, grants will be between $2,000 and $10,000.

The grants will be non-competitive; they are hardship grants, reflecting the challenges that businesses face.

They'll be assessed in order of receipt, and businesses will be able to apply from Tuesday when they open.

But we'll work through these sequentially, as they come in.

We know these businesses are struggling now.

We've got a relatively simple set of guidelines to enable an accelerated process.

As I’ve said, it will officially start next Tuesday, the 17th, and full details on the program will be available at business.tas.gov.au.

And, again, as I've said on many occasions, if there are further supports that we need to target, then we will do so.

I've been clear on that from Day One - where there is a need and that need’s not being met, we will consider it, and if appropriate, we’ll provide additional support.

As I've said, the Delta strain of COVID-19 is different.

It is impacting and challenging other jurisdictions in a way that we haven't seen before.

In terms of New South Wales, our thoughts are with them.

They are in a very, very difficult set of circumstances.

Victoria, we continue to keep on watch and, as I've said, we will keep our border closed for at least two weeks, possibly up to four, but we'll provide further advice on that over the coming weeks.

Importantly, here in Tasmania, we must maintain our focus on testing.

More than 1,360 tests have been conducted in the last 24 hours and, once again, I confirm that they have all been negative.

We must all think about our own hygiene and safety when mixing in large groups.

Remember to socially distance, remember to follow the rules, and importantly, remember to use the check-in Tas app.

From 6pm tonight, Ubers and taxis will need to provide the Check-In Tas app.

I understand at this stage that we have had over 771 applications this week, 358 had already been applied for and, obviously, they're coming through relatively quickly.

Importantly, we'll be making a decision next week, and I'd expect that we will be extending this towards the end of next week to buses and other forms of public transport as well.

Cover your coughs and sneezes, stay home if you're unwell, don't hesitate to get a test, even if you have mild symptoms, and as soon as you start to see symptoms, make sure you isolate, stay at home, get a test and, importantly, don't go out to the pub, don't go out to a party. Do the right thing, protect your community.

***