Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 19 APRIL 2020

Premier Peter Gutwein

Never before has the message to stay home, be safe, save lives, been so important. And again I want to reiterate that to all Tasmanians.

Staying at home, saving lives, limiting your travel, limiting your contact with other individuals is of paramount importance.

I want to touch immediately on the three aged care facilities in the North West. And I want to explain this as a bitter-sweet outcome.

We carried out around 500 tests on nursing and aged care residents in the three homes, as well as their staff.

On one hand, it’s reassuring that there has only been one positive case identified. On the other hand, though, we have an individual who has contracted this insidious disease.

Of the 500 tests that were carried out, unfortunately the one case is a 75 year old woman who has tested positive, who was a resident of the Melaleuca Aged Care facility. She has been transferred to the Launceston General Hospital to receive the necessary care. Unfortunately we know that this disease is of greater risk to older people, and our thoughts and prayers are with this individual and their family.

As a result of this positive case, around 22 staff at the Melaleuca Aged Care facility will be assessed, and if necessary, will be quarantined as a precaution. Dr Veitch will provide more details along with the Health Minister in a moment.

I do want to say, that in respect to the engagement of the three aged care homes, that has been exemplary, in terms of engagement and the way they have managed their COVID-19 plans. They are well-prepared, and that is an assurance that we can provide to both the community, but importantly, to the family of the residents in those three homes.

As I said yesterday, right now in Tasmania, we have two very different situations. We are seeing minimal cases in the South and North, and we are working hard to contain the outbreak in the North West. Our actions in quarantining and estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people, closing two hospitals, increasing our testing, and aggressively contact tracing, appear – at this point in time, and I don’t want to get in front of ourselves – to be working.

These measures, in concert with the increased restrictions we have placed on business to slow the movement on people in the community, appear to be working. But they will only work if people follow the rules, and we must remain vigilant, we must remain disciplined.

I especially today want to thank all the people who are helping our efforts – it has been outstanding.

The level of interaction between Agencies, the level of engagement with the community, people have gone above and beyond to not only ensure that we successfully close two hospitals, but at the same time, conduct a clean and reopen an ED. And the support of the AUSMAT team, the ADF and our own SES team, has been outstanding.

I want to thank, especially, a number of people on the North West Coast. Those members of Parliament have been doing their bit, the Upper House members who have engaged and done their work. I do want to reach out to one member of the Upper House – Ruth Forrest. Many people know Ruth, her background is in maternity, and I know that she worked across hospitals up there. Last night, interestingly enough, and I say this as I know it will bring a smile to Ruth’s face. We have, for a long period of time, been in the trenches, and not always agreed on every matter that has come before the Parliament, or on other issues, but the work that she has done has been outstanding, and I want to thank her for that. The insights that she’s provided to me, to assist with my decision making, have been greatly appreciated.

Last night, I note that on my own Facebook page, she was answering responses from West Coast residents, late into the evening, and assisting people to understand what they needed to do in regards to COVID-19, and I do want to that her for that.

I want to say very clearly to Tasmanians, that in the terms of the outbreak on the NW Coast, the steps that we have taken appear to be working. But we all need to remain disciplined, we need to ensure that we follow the rules and we do everything that we can. We know that what is happening in the NW could happen elsewhere at any time. We need to ensure that we follow the rules and do what we can to limit any outbreak. If we allow complacency to creep in, and in respect to the South and North especially, I want to send a strong message – this is not the time to take your foot off the pedal. Now is not the time to relax and become complacent. We need to do everything that we can, and the best way that we can ensure that we crush this disease is to follow the rules, and I encourage everybody to do that.

The Health Minister yesterday announced an increase in testing. That partnership between ourselves, the Federal Government and the private sector – Sonic Healthcare – will stand us in good stead. Our testing is being ramped up considerably. I do want to say, and it’s a point that was raised by a resident of the West Coast yesterday, in terms of access to testing. As the Minister said yesterday, there will be access to mobile testing, but if you are concerned, contact your GP and testing can be arranged and will be arranged.

I want to touch on Police yesterday. The feedback yesterday from Police is that the vast majority of people are doing the right thing, and I want to thank you for that. But it’s important that we follow the rules, because the only way that this virus travels, is with people. If we limit travel, if we limit the time spent out in your community interacting with people, then we will limit the spread of this virus. It is very very simple. It’s important that we all follow the rules.

In terms of the policing that occurred on the NW Coast yesterday. A variety of methods, including static traffic check points, marked and unmarked cars, vehicle patrols and intercepts, were rolled out.

In the last 48 hours, over 1,400 vehicles have been stopped, and in the vast majority of cases, people have been doing the right thing. There have been some who have been asked to turn around and to go home. But, the vast majority of people are doing the right thing, and I want to thank the NW Coast for that. However, if you are driving today, don’t be surprised if you are pulled up by the Police and you are asked what your business is and whether or not it is an essential purpose you are engaged in. And if it’s not, you will be asked to go home. As I’ve said, the virus moves with people, so we need to stop people moving, and we need to limit interaction that people have with others. So again, I ask Tasmanians to do the right thing – stay home, save lives. For many, I will sound like a broken record, but I will continue to say this, because it is simply so important. Unless you have an essential reason to be outside of your home, stay home, stay safe and, importantly, help us to save lives.

I also want to once again thank those people who are on our front line, both in our health system, and those that are working at the moment, ensuring that our farms are operating, serving us in those businesses that can still operate. I want to thank all of those people for the work that they do. I was reminded yesterday that Australia Post still operates, and there are many people that are doing their bit to ensure that parcels are still being delivered and people can receive what they need.

Last night, the message to “Shine for the Front Line” was picked up by Tasmanians all around the State. Thank you to those who picked up a torch or a candle, or turned on their porch light, or in some cases put back up their Christmas lights. I think it was a very very welcome gesture from our community to those people who are doing everything they can to support us.

I was touched last night, I received an email video last night from the Cairns family at Winnaleah, where their four beautiful children shared a lovely video message to Shine for our Front Line. I just wanted to say thank you. When you think about the community that we live in, the efforts that people have gone to, over the last few weeks to support out COVID effort, to now have Tasmanians right across the State, turning on a light to Shine for the Frontline, is just so important, it’s the one thing we have to do – to stick together. If we stick together, we will get through this, and we will come out the other side.

I want to applaud all the people on the front line, I want to thank all those Tasmanians who took the opportunity to thank our front line and essential workers. And importantly, I’d ask you to do the same thing tonight. As I’ve said, this is a marathon, not a sprint. We all need to stick together.

Stay home, keep safe, help us to save lives. If you don’t need to be out of your home, if there’s not an essential reason, then stay home. Protect yourself, protect your family, help protect our community. It is so important. The rules are strict, I understand that. But the rules will help us to save lives, and if we all follow those rules, we will have a safer community. And we will save more lives as we work our way through this.

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