Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 20 AUGUST 2021

Our priority since the start of COVID has been to keep Tasmanians safe.

While we have no cases in Tasmania, the significant outbreaks in both Victoria and New South Wales have us on a heightened alert level.

The impacts the Delta strain has on people, the health system, economy and community is very serious, as we are seeing play out in New South Wales especially.

We're not taking any chances, that's why we put in place our 4 Stage Delta Shield Plan.

Strengthening border controls; strengthening testing, tracking and tracing systems; bolstering support for business; and, importantly, our Super Six vaccination plan.

The Delta Shield Plan sets ambitious targets to boost vaccination rates even further, and we’re in Week 2 of the Super Six process.

I’m pleased to report that we are well and truly on track to vaccinate 63% of Tasmanians with their first dose by the 12th of September.

Furthermore, I'm confident with our state clinic forward bookings, with the vaccination rates in GP clinics and community pharmacies, that there is a very good chance that we will go beyond the 63% by that date.

Right now, we're currently sitting at 54.6%, so nearly 55% of Tasmanians have had their first dose, and I want to thank people for being so willing to come forward and take that first dose, and almost 34.5% are fully vaccinated.

In this regard, we continue to lead the nation.

The Prime Minister announced yesterday that from Monday the 30th of August, anyone aged 16 to 39 years old, will be able to get the Pfizer vaccine.

Now, we've already been vaccinating those Tasmanians age 30 plus in our community clinics over the last few weeks, and from Monday we will begin vaccinating 16 to 18-year old students as part of our college plan, as we've already announced.

There is no doubt that opening up to 16 to 29-year olds will give more Tasmanians the ability to protect themselves more quickly from COVID-19.

From Monday, the 30th of August, that cohort, the 16 to 29-year old cohort will be able to make bookings in their community clinics or participating GPs who are offering the Pfizer vaccine.

Importantly, I want to thank Tasmanians, we’re doing very well in turning up and getting the vaccination, and it's clear that Tasmanians want to get vaccinated, and we'll continue to roll out the opportunity for them to do so, but we need to maintain that momentum and, again, the very clear message is, don't wait, vaccinate when it's available to you.

The strong border restrictions remain one of our most important safeguards.

New South Wales remains on high risk Level 1, while Victoria and the ACT are at high risk Level 2, as is New Zealand, all of which are continuing to combat rising case numbers.

This means our borders remain essentially closed to these places, unless you have approval from the Deputy State Controller to enter.

In relation to the Northern Territory, authorities in that state lifted the lockdown for Darwin from midday yesterday, however, the lockdown remains in place for Katherine, and Public Health can provide an update on their position in terms of the Northern Territory.

Finally, Queensland, WA and South Australia are all classified low risk, however, those who have recently travelled are encouraged to check the Coronavirus website regularly for the high-risk premises in those states as they are updated.

I want to talk about planning for lockdown.

Right now, we're doing everything possible to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in Tasmania.

Our focus in terms of Delta is to lock it out, not lock down our community, and that's why we put in place the 4 Stage Delta Shield Plan.

We want to be able to live our lives, go to school, go to work and recreate as normally as possible.

However, whilst we have strong border and quarantine measures in place, should we experience a situation where a lockdown is necessary, it's important that we are prepared and understand what that might mean.

I haven't sugar-coated the information around the challenges that we face at any time over the last 18 months, and I don't intend to start doing that.

And so, today we'll be releasing additional information to help Tasmanians understand what will occur should a lockdown be necessary in the state.

Now, I want to ask and make a personal request to the media to be responsible with this information.

We're not in lockdown, I want to make that perfectly clear.

What I don't want to see in coming days are people contacting the Public Health hotline on the basis of a lockdown has been declared.

That is not the case.

What we're doing is putting out a plan to indicate to people what could and would occur.

Importantly, our intention, if we do lock down, is to get on top of this as quickly as possible.

We've seen what has happened in other jurisdictions in terms of those that have acted swiftly, those that have taken a longer approach to this, and we want to ensure that we can get on top of this as quickly as we possibly can.

Our intention is to go in as hard as we possibly can and to be in a lockdown for three to five days, if we can, and then come out quickly.

Importantly, each situation or outbreak will be different and will require a tailored response, based on the specific circumstances that apply in each situation and, importantly, based on Public Health advice.

There's not a one-rule-fits-all approach to this, but the principles will remain right through, and that is go in hard and get out as quickly as we possibly can and return to normal life as quickly as we possibly can.

I want to say to Tasmanians, should we have a lockdown, it’ll be up to Tasmanians to be aware of what restrictions are in place and to follow them.

We've been very good at doing that in Tasmania, we've seen in some other jurisdictions that people haven't been as willing, and they are having significant impacts on both their health, their health system and their economy as a result.

So, I’ll ask Tasmanians, should we get to that point, and we're doing everything we possibly can to ensure that we don't, but if we do, that they follow the rules.

Importantly, there's no need to panic buy.

Our supermarkets will remain open, you will be allowed to go and shop for essential items.

Importantly, get tested, even if your symptoms are mild, make sure that you continue to follow that basic rule.

Should our contact tracing team reach out for information, work with them.

We're continuing to see people use the Check-in Tas app, which has been very successful. I must admit, the venues that I have been to, whether it be supermarkets or hotels, or coffee shops, people are using the app, and I want to encourage them to continue to do so.

A lockdown will be very restrictive on people movement for as short a time as possible.

The vaccine provides protection, but it won't provide the ultimate silver bullet that we're looking for.

In terms of a lockdown, the virus moves with people, it is as simple as that.

If we reduce people movement, we can reduce the spread of the virus.

And our lockdown plan is based on that.

Our target, as I've said, would be to be in a lockdown for three to five days, if necessary.

In hard, but out quick.

Now, whether it's applied to the whole state or to a regional area will depend on the circumstances of the incursion and the advice of Public Health at that time.

Our lockdown plan details restrictions on businesses, gatherings, home visits and access to aged care facilities and hospitals, as well as the use of face masks.

There is a clear list of authorised businesses and authorised workers, based on essential needs and operations.

There is no magic number to trigger a lockdown and how long lockdown will last, as I've said we want to focus on and our target would be in hard, three to five days, out quick.

But again, the Public Health advice is what we will follow.

I just want to make the case, or make this point, we recently had a case of Delta in the State in quarantine.

There was no need for either a localised, regionalised or state-wide lockdown.

We understood where that case was, our contact trackers and traces were able to understand those people that needed to be quarantined, and that occurred very quickly and life went about as normally, went on as normally as we could.

If a case had been loose in one of our cities and had visited supermarkets, or other large venues, then obviously we would have a different response, but again based on Public Health.

I would encourage all Tasmanians to familiarise themselves with the plan that we're putting out today.

There's a two-page summary, there'll be further information that will be provided on the website but, importantly, in terms of the industry groups and sectors that would be impacted by this, over the coming week, we'll be reaching out and having further discussions with them.

Ministers are engaged normally on a weekly basis already, but we’re ensuring that we can provide what advice we can to any questions that industry groups might have moving forward.

However, I do want to be absolutely clear about this, we are not in lockdown today, we're doing everything that we possibly can to ensure that we don't go into lockdown.

The plan that we're releasing today is to provide information, so that people can prepare themselves, should unfortunately we need to do that.

Our strategy for Delta is to lock it out, not lock down, and this has worked so far, and that's what we want to focus on.

I encourage people to get vaccinated when they can, work together to ensure that should we have to take these steps that we can get out of this situation as quickly and as sensitively and as safely as possible, and remember that the best thing that you can do right now is to remain vigilant.

Keep on top of COVID-safe behaviours. Wash your hands, be aware of your social distancing, wear a mask if the event calls for it, cover your coughs and sneezes, use the Check-in Tas app, and don't hesitate to get a test, even if you have even the mildest of symptoms.

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