Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 16 APRIL 2020

Premier Peter Gutwein

Joining us this morning is Colonel David Hughes who I’m so very pleased is leading the ADF contingent supporting the AUSMAT, the Australian Medical Assistance Team, in terms of standing up the ED at the Mersey. And Sarah Courtney and Colonel Hughes will provide an update in terms of progress in respect of cleaning of the hospital and also the opening of the ED once I’ve finished.

I want to say this morning, obviously this will be slightly different this morning for me. I’ll be in and out relatively quickly. We have National Cabinet coming up shortly.

Just for those people that do regularly watch these updates, tomorrow morning we’ll be at 9:30 again, and on the weekend we will revert back to 11 o’clock, the reason being today we have a national cabinet meeting starting shortly and tomorrow there’ll be a national treasury meeting which will start at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning.

In terms of an update. Overnight we’ve had four more cases, all rated to the state’s North West. This brings our total cases to 169. And, as I’ve said yesterday, unfortunately we have had six deaths and, unfortunately, I do expect that we will see more as we work our way through this. 67 people have now pleasingly recovered and, obviously, that will increase on a daily basis as well, and that is very pleasing.

I do want to just touch on a couple of general things this morning before taking some questions. I was shocked to read the Editorial this morning, and we did touch on it yesterday in terms of some of the comments that are being made online about our healthcare workers, especially those on the North West Coast, but it appears also in Launceston and in other parts of the state.

These people are doing their very best to support the Tasmanian population, to ensure that we have the best possible health services as we work our way through this very difficult challenge, and I would urge Tasmanians, as I know the vast majority of Tasmanians will do, to support our healthcare workers as we go through what is a significant challenging and difficult time.

And I would just make that point. I said yesterday for the keyboard warriors to back off, and I will say it again. These people have supported our community, our healthcare workers have supported our community for decades in many cases and right now is not the time to be lining them up and taking pot shot at them. They are doing their very best and we will support them to support you.

In terms of National Cabinet today. On the agenda will be a number of matters. Obviously education and schools. And as I indicated yesterday, our schools will reopen after the Easter break. They will be there to support those parents who are continuing to work. And, as I said yesterday, any job is an essential job, and if a parent needs to have their children at school, our schools will be open.

Importantly, our schools will support the children of those households that aren’t able to adequately support their children learning from home, whether on the internet or via the web or with home-based resources. We want to ensure that we do not lose a generation’s education over the course of this 12 months. It is too important. We will ensure that we do everything that we possibly can to provide the support to both those parents that require it but, importantly, to our students.

In terms of the conversation today. No doubt, that will turn to how we ensure that we provide for our workforce, our teachers, a safe working environment and, again, I would point back to the AHPPC advice that the risk is very, very low in schools, very low. And from the point of view of our teaching workforce, we understand the concerns that you have, we understand that in many cases, like many Tasmanians, you are concerned and frightened for your health at the moment, and we need to ensure that as we work our way through this that we can provide the comfort that you need to understand that your workplace is safe. And we will do our very, very best to do that.

I want to just touch on a couple of points in relation to the situation with compliance yesterday on the North West Coast. I’m very pleased that yesterday, in terms of overall compliance, there was 700 checks made yesterday, and in the main most people were doing the right thing. You know, I think that is a very, very good result.

In terms of compliance overall, in terms of the now thousands of checks that have been undertaken, advice has been provided on 65 occasions, warnings on eight, and there have been 12 charges or summons in total. That is all. Out of the thousands of tests that have been conducted.

And, again, I would thank people that are in quarantine or self-isolation for doing the right thing. I think it is important that you continue to do that. It is difficult, we understand that but, please, for the health of yourself, your family, your community, continue to do the right thing and follow the rules.

In terms of Easter and coming out of that, I did make the point yesterday that the current rules remain in place and that people should not take the opportunity to visit their shack or think that now that Easter’s over the rules change. They simply don’t.

At the end of the day, we want people to follow the rules, do the right thing, keep themselves, their families and their community safe. And we would expect that to occur, and Police will ensure that they do what they can in terms of ensuring that if you are doing the wrong thing, that you’ll be caught and you face the full force of the law.

Testing, very briefly. More than 200 test yesterday. The Health Minister will provide more details in regard to this. And I just want to urge those on the North West Coast, we have the capacity to do around 500 tests per day. If you have any form of mild respiratory illness, make contact, book a test, talk to your GP or through the Public Health Hotline, come forward and get tested. We want to ensure that the resource that we have available is utilised.

On one hand, there may not be that many people with mild respiratory symptoms. I would hope that is the case. On the other, it may be that you are concerned and you want to maintain the quarantine or your own personal self-isolation. My advice would be, if you’ve got any mild respiratory symptoms, pick up the phone, book in a test and get tested. We would urge you to do that. The resources and the facilities are there.

Before I take questions, I just simply want to say again, to the North West community especially. This has been difficult. We have put in place rules that impinge on your personal freedoms, and whilst I will not apologise for that, because they are absolutely necessary, I do want to ask that you do the very best that you can to follow those rules.

If we can ensure that social distancing occurs, if we can ensure that you do the right thing in terms of your own personal hygiene, we can get on top of this. We can beat this. But we need you to all play your part. Right across Government, agencies will support you.

Right across Government, the support that is on the ground will be there to ensure that should you have difficulties, should you have problems, we will reach out and support you, if you need that support. But, please, do the right thing.

In terms of the North and the South. And I do want to be absolutely crystal clear about this. Do not become complacent. Do not become complacent. It is important that whilst we’re seeing tests not return positives across those two regions at the moment, do not become complacent. It is absolutely vital that you follow the rules, that you maintain social distancing, that you maintain good hygiene and that we do our very best to crush this.

I ask that you absolutely follow those rules, do not become complacent and do the right thing. The best way to beat this is to stay home, do the right thing, stay safe and, importantly, save lives.

***