In the past week we have reached an important milestone, we began vaccinating our priority and at-risk Tasmanians in the North and North West of the State, and I’m pleased to report that the rollout is progressing smoothly in both regions.
Today, another important step with vaccinations beginning at the Mersey Community Hospital where health workers will be the first to roll up their sleeves.
First phase of the rollout, Phase 1A, has now been underway for four weeks and I’m pleased to report that we vaccinated 6,557 Tasmanians, with 1,074 of them also having received their second dose.
The Commonwealth has vaccinated round 3,000 Tasmanians as well, and so our total, receiving their first dose, is getting close to around 9,500 people.
Now, this is a very good achievement, and again I’d like to thank our professional skilled team who are working to administer this vaccine every day.
From today, we expand our efforts.
Bookings will open from this afternoon for appointments for the first of four State Government-run community clinics.
These clinics are at Kingston, Mowbray, Brighton and New Norfolk and will start operating from this coming Monday 22 March.
They’re expected to vaccinate around 16,000 Tasmanians over the next four weeks.
These clinics are open for bookings for Tasmanians who come under the categories which fall under the Phase 1B of our rollout.
These are: elderly people, aged 70 and over; remaining healthcare workers not vaccinated in Phase 1A; younger adults with underlying medical conditions; Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander adults aged 55 and over; and critical and high-risk workers including Defence, Police, fire and emergency services; as well as meat processors.
My message for Tasmanians today is that we expect there to be considerable interest in getting vaccinated at these clinics.
Please be patient when trying to make a booking.
It may take some time at first, due to demand.
We, and I must admit, I am thankful that there is demand, Tasmanians want to get vaccinated.
But, there’s no need to worry, just take your time and at the end of the day, you will be vaccinated.
Importantly, if you don’t have a booking, don’t just turn up to the clinics, bookings are essential to ensure that we can manage the process in a safe and efficient way.
If you’re unsuccessful in getting an appointment quickly, please don’t worry, more appointments will become available in coming weeks, and the Government will set up additional clinics as vaccine supplies from the Australian Government ramp up over the next couple of months.
More GPs will be joining the rollout program over the next few weeks, and Tasmania’s three GP-led respiratory clinics at Derwent Park, Launceston and also St Helens will be participating, giving Tasmanians a range of options over the next few months.
Importantly, the vaccine is safe, it’s effective and it’s free, and it was pleasing to read overnight the news from the United Kingdom and Europe that a number of countries have resumed using AstraZeneca after the European Medicines Agency’s chief ruled it to be a safe and effective vaccine.
Our priority throughout COVID has been to protect the health and wellbeing of Tasmanians, and whilst our vaccination program continues, it’s important that we don’t become complacent.
Yesterday, we announced that the Director of Public Health had determined that from 1st of May the free Check in TAS app will be the only system used for collecting contact tracing information in Tasmania.
Now, this means that specific businesses, community groups and event operators who try and collect contact tracing information will need to register the Check in TAS and ensure their patrons can easily use the Check in TAS QR code at their premises ahead of the 1 May deadline.
And I was with a group of media yesterday checking into a business, and it was very pleasing to get the feedback of just how easy it is and how responsive people have been to that system.
The process only takes a few seconds, it’s an easy and safe way and, importantly, will help Public Health, should we need to track and trace.
I do want to just shout out to our businesses.
They have done an extraordinary job, and in the main they have been on board, either through Check in TAS, and that has been rolled out widely, but some have used other QR code programs, and some are still using paper and pen.
Now, obviously, we would like everybody to be on this one app. Where none of the options are available, pen and paper can also be used. If you’re in a group, somebody more than likely will have a mobile phone, use their phone to check in, so we’re capturing all under the one system. And we’ll be communicating this change further with Tasmanians in the coming weeks.
In terms of seasonal workers, we’re preparing to accept more seasonal workers to help with our harvest and fulfil our agreement with Victoria.
A flight of workers from Vanuatu is scheduled to arrive in Hobart at 23:30 this evening with 162 workers on board, 56 of which will be staying to work in Tasmania post-quarantine, the rest will be heading to work in Victoria.
A second flight from the Solomon Islands is scheduled to arrive in Hobart very early on Tuesday morning, March 23rd, with 144 workers on board, 54 of those will be staying to work in Tasmania post quarantine with the rest heading to work in Victoria as well.
Our advice right through this period has been that these workers present a low risk of COVID-19 to our community, but in line with our requirements will enter 14 days of hotel quarantine on their arrival to ensure Tasmanians are kept safe.
Now, last two pieces of information I want to provide.
One is in respect to direct flights with New Zealand.
We announced that were were actively working to welcome a new direct air service from New Zealand to Tasmania late last year for the first time in over 20 years.
Today I’m pleased to say that we reached agreement on commercial terms with Air New Zealand for a new direct service from Auckland to Hobart, due to begin around Anzac Day.
I would like to make the point, that New Zealanders can travel into Australia without quarantine arrangements, but on the way back it’s a matter for the New Zealand Government.
Now, I am quietly confident that we will see a travel bubble established prior to those flights starting, and so I’m very excited about this.
Air New Zealand will fly from Auckland to Hobart and the return on Thursdays and Sundays with the possibility of a third flight as demand increases.
I met yesterday with the Hobart International Airport who advised me that it will be ready to accept flights for their terminal work nearing completion and the support that’s been provided by the Australian Government who will stand up an Australian Border Force.
So, we will be ready to go.
The new flights will be available for bookings in coming days.
Air New Zealand is a global brand with a great reputation, has a significant New Zealand customer base and, importantly, has connections with key priority overseas markets as well.
This is great news for our community and, importantly, for our tourism industry, as we are heading to quieter winter months, which I expect to be unlike any winter that we’ve seen before in terms of the demand for Tasmanian product over the coming months.
Tourism Tasmania's been readying the market with its Come Down for Air brand campaign since January this year and we welcomed 25,000 visitors per year from New Zeeland prior to COVID, so we only expect this to increase without the requirement in transits from the mainland.
The other matter I’ll provide a quick update on is regarding the AFL.
I was in contact with Gill McLachlan last night and we’ve had a positive discussion this morning.
I expect that we will land on a consultant very soon, and I’m looking forward to a very positive announcement in coming days, if not at the latest by early next week, in terms of who the consultant will be, move, taking us forward.