Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 13 OCTOBER 2020

Premier Peter Gutwein

As we’re all aware, I announced our plan to move to Step 2 of our sensible 3-Step transition plan for easing our border restrictions to lower-risk jurisdictions around 10 days ago.

Lower-risk jurisdictions are determined based on a number of factors which include the period of time they’ve gone with low or no numbers of cases and the lack of community transmission occurring in those areas.

At this stage, our plan continue to be that on 26th October we will open to low-risk jurisdictions of South Australia, Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and the ACT.

We are continuing to monitor the situation in New South Wales closely.

The last available data for New South Wales shows that there have been six new cases with one case of locally transmitted disease recorded.

You know, they are very low numbers in a large population, but we’ve taken the view based on advice from Public Health and the State Controller and State Health Commander that we should wait at least another week and continue to monitor New South Wales as to whether or not we would open on the 26th October to them.

I’m certainly not ruling out easing the restrictions with New South Wales at this stage.

As I’ve said, it’s important that we, as we have done right through this, you know, sensibly and responsibly and cautiously, consider the best pathway forward, and we’ll provide an update on the 19th October, a week from today, in terms of whether or not we will open.

We won’t put Tasmanians at risk, and we made that commitment right through this that the health, safety and wellbeing of Tasmanians is the first and foremost thought in our minds.

And in terms of Victoria, certainly for the time being, Victoria will remain closed to Tasmania, but we will continue to monitor that, and as I indicated when I outlined the 3-Step plan, under that plan Public Health will provide advice in respect to Victoria and other hotspots by the 1st December.

But, again, you know, we’ll continue to watch that very closely, and should it not be safe to open to Victoria, or New South Wales for that matter, we certainly won’t.

Today, I’m releasing our State Border Strategy which, I understand, you all received, and I would encourage Tasmanians to get a copy of it, it’s available on the website, and it runs through the steps that we have taken in terms of ensuring that we are safe.

The other document that I’m releasing today, and it is on our website, is the COVID-19 Case and Outbreak Management Framework for Tasmanian Settings. And so I encourage Tasmanians to have a look at that.

The plan covers the key actions that will occur at our borders when travellers arrive and sets out the steps we have in place to maintain our existing testing rates, contact tracing and rapid response to cases and outbreaks, as well as preparedness measures in our hospitals and aged care facilities.

Our safe border strategy is based on and supported by a robust planning framework for Tasmanian setting which, as I said, is available on the Tasmanian Health website.

I want to assure all Tasmanians the processes we will put in place at our borders will be sensible and responsible.

Firstly, we will continue to monitor other jurisdictions and identify emerging risks in other parts of the country and respond with measures such as quarantine as required.

Anyone travelling to Tasmanian from low-risk jurisdictions will be required to register their travel. There is a new app, the TAS-E travel app, and they’ll need to enter their travel and contact details before entering the state.

There will be health screening for all arrivals to our state, including temperature checks, and there will be questions asked regarding whether or not they have any symptoms.

Following health screen, those from low-risk areas who have symptoms will be requested to get a test and to isolate until the result is known.

Mandatory quarantine requirements will remain in place for those from high-risk areas, which include Victoria, for obvious reasons, but then any other hotspot areas that are determined, and a COVID-19 test will be available to those people during quarantine.

When it comes to arrivals who visit our state via the Spirit of Tasmania, travellers coming into Tasmania from low-risk jurisdictions will need to transit via Victoria, only stopping for fuel on their way to the ferry terminal.

The Spirit of Tasmania also has a COVID safety management plan in place through its Safe Sail initiative which highlights guidance for passengers.

The compliance checking system for arrivals will continue for people who may need to still undertake a quarantine period, at home or in Government designated hotel quarantine.

Though, for obvious reasons, if you’re coming in from Victoria or if New South Wales doesn’t open for example, you’ll be placed into hotel quarantine, or if you’re a Tasmanian coming back from New South Wales or any other jurisdiction that we decide is an area that we need to be cautious with, you would be able to quarantine at home. But, again, check the travel advice that’s on the coronavirus website.

Testing clinics have been established in all regions of the state, with the ability to scale up should additional testing capacity be required. With the capacity, as I’ve said, to collect and test samples of around a thousand patients per day with a surge capacity now of up to 2,000 per day, should we need to.

One of the most important considerations has been the preparedness of our aged care sector and the fact that the nation’s surge aged care workforce was focussed on Victoria as they lost thousands of aged care workers that were quarantined as a result of the outbreak that they had.

The State Government has been working with operators in the sector to support them in their preparedness and response capabilities, and our aged care emergency operation centre has also been established to ensure a coordinated system-wide response.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has completed its full schedule of spot checks in Tasmania with those checks focussed on the level of preparedness and compliance in infection prevention and control practices within the settings, and in addition the state has recently completed a schedule of 69 health system support visits, capturing the 77 Commonwealth-funded services across Tasmania.

Public Health continues to work with individual settings where COVID-19 could spread quickly or effective management might be complex or where the consequences may be serious if a case was to occur, and Public Health is working with those priority settings to ensure that robust outbreak management plans are in place.

You know, for example aged care settings, you know, difficult workplaces where we’ve seen outbreaks occur on the mainland, for example in abattoirs.

In our health system, escalation plans are in place for each of our hospitals in the South, North and the North West, which includes specific trigger points for escalation.

The plans clearly outline what actions are to be taken when escalation occurs, including how it impacts patient flow and staffing, ensuring both hot areas and cold areas are appropriately staffed.

These plans detail the actions that would be implemented to limit the spread of COVID-19, if it was to occur on their site.

If a case was to occur, Public Health staff will work with the site to implement the plan and manage any outbreak.

This includes contact tracing and working with the operators of the sites to ensure infection control measures are in place to limit spread and clean and manage the site appropriately.

And a surge workforce is available to activate rapid response contact tracing.

We have sufficient levels of PPE and are well advanced in terms of the target level stockpile with equivalent to six months’ supply available for our health service with surge capacity, if needed.

Importantly, we are constantly reviewing all of these measures as part of ensuring our capabilities are ready as we move forward.

I want to just touch on flights.

In terms of our negotiations with airlines, in terms of direct flights, as I understand it, we currently have a number of direct flights into the state in terms of Adelaide and Brisbane.

Obviously though, and I would say, you know, rather than providing travel advice here today, I would say to people, you know, as the airlines are moving swiftly, ensure that you look at both the Tas Government coronavirus website in terms of travel requirements post the 26th, but importantly, keep an eye on the flights that are available.

I understand direct flights are available from Hobart to Brisbane and Adelaide and also Launceston direct to Brisbane at this stage, but I expect that these circumstances will change now that there is clarity in terms of the border opening on 26th.

In terms of the discussion with New Zealand and with airlines, those negotiations are progressing with the relevant airline and also in terms of the Federal Government.

We’re working very hard on being able to stand up an interim arrangement in terms of an international terminal at Hobart Airport, and those negotiations are well underway.

Importantly, I understand that federal officials met with Tasmanian Government officials this week to consider the plans in terms of establishing Border Force at the Hobart Airport imminently.

I want to also touch on today Antarctic travel.

The Deputy Premier in my absence late last week announced that we would be seeing Antarctic traveller arrive in the state to be quarantined before leaving for Antarctica.

Tasmania is the gateway to the Antarctic, and we need to ensure that we can accommodate safe transit for international Antarctic expeditions whilst keeping Tasmanians safe.

Tasmania Police will lead the security arrangements for the quarantine of Antarctic travellers transiting through Hobart later this month.

The international arrivals, and there will be some Italian and French Antarctic expeditioners that will arrive, they’ll fly direct to Hobart on a charter plane before boarding the ship, the L’Astrolabe, on 3rd November.

Stringent arrival, quarantine and safety protocols have been put in place and all quarantine protocols will be strictly adhered to.

Police will be present for the airport arrival, transfer and checking in the guests at their quarantine hotel, and officers will be present at the quarantine accommodation 24/7 for the 14-day period international guests are required to quarantine.

We’ll also have support from the ADF in terms of this.

You know, our expectation is that it will be somewhere, I think, around 180 I think is the number that we will see that will come into the state. They will be very strictly managed.

I think the point to make as well is that in terms of our expertise at managing quarantine, I think that has been well demonstrated over the last six months. In this case though we are taking it a step up and we’ll have a greater police presence as well, supported by ADF and, obviously, Border Force will be available as well.

Before handing over, I want to thank Tasmanians for continuing to do the right thing, continuing to follow the rules.

But I do want to make this point, I want to make it very clearly, we are one of the safest jurisdictions on the planet.

You know, based on Public Health advice, when you look at those jurisdictions that I’ve named, WA, South Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland, they are just as safe as Tasmania.

Where they have picked up cases, it has largely been through their quarantine hotels and in terms of community transmissions, they have been free of that for some time.

Now, in terms of moving forward though, Tasmanians need to take responsibility. They need to stay on top of COVID, they need to follow the rules.

The best way that we can protect ourselves is to ensure that we have good personal hygiene, that we cover our coughs and colds, importantly, that we follow the social distancing rules and, most importantly, and it’s what caught Victoria and it’s caught other jurisdictions, if you are unwell, do not go to work, stay home, get a test and isolate until you are clear.

You know, we’ve put in place support for those that may be casual or part-time workers that don’t have sick pay available to them. There is funding of up to $1,500 available from the Commonwealth Government to support people whilst they quarantine.

It is important, and I cannot stress this enough, after having a couple of days in the North of the state last week, most people are doing the right thing, but it’s important now that the lessons that we have learned, that the rules that we have put in place are followed.

You know, Tasmania has done a fantastic job.

And as I’ve said, we are one of the safest jurisdictions in the world, along with those safe jurisdictions that I have named.

You know, as we move forward and we return to a more normal life, it will still be a COVID life, and we need to ensure that we do the right thing, that we protect ourselves, that we protect our family and we protect our community.

I’ll hand over to Dr Veitch just to make some comments before the Deputy State Controller makes some comments.