Premier Peter Gutwein
The number one priority of this Government during COVID-19 has been to ensure that we keep Tasmanians safe, that we look after their health and wellbeing.
As we look to other jurisdictions at the moment, it’s reminded that while we’re on of the safest places in the world, things can turn in a heartbeat. That’s why we must remain vigilant, responsive and agile.
I said all along that we will scale up and scale down as we need to, in line with the risks and threats to our state.
Our approach has been consistent from the start and we will be cautious, we will be responsible, we will be sensible and we will always take into account the fact we have an older and more vulnerable population.
Importantly, we have always and will continue to follow Public Health advice. That has stood this state in very good stead, and I want to thank Dr Veitch and the Deputy Director and the other people that are employed in Public Health. They have done a terrific job right through this.
Right now in Victoria there are around 5,000 active cases of coronavirus. There are hundreds of people in hospital. More than 2,500 health workers that have been infected with the virus as well during the pandemic. There are also more than 1,800 active cases in that state right now related to aged care facilities.
States and territories across Australia are assisting Victoria who along with all of their population are in the fight of their live at the moment.
Tasmania is supporting Victoria as best we can.
We will be providing a contingent of 12 Tasmanians, healthcare workers, including three AUSMAT staff and nine nursing staff who will be departing over the weekend to assist Victoria on the frontline.
I wish these courageous and hardworking Tasmanians the very best as they work to support Victoria at this difficult time.
States and territories right across the country are doing what they can to assist Victoria, simply because they have had such an enormous number of healthcare workers, those that work in the aged care sector that have been furloughed, that have been asked to isolate, and it’s important that we do what we can to help them out.
This week, we announced the date to plan for our borders to relax as being December the 1st.
It gives adequate time for the situation in Victoria to come under control, to understand and for it to be monitored and for us to understand the impacts on those close-lying states, as I’ve explained on a number of occasions during the course of the week.
It will provide certainty to our community at this time of what is, without doubt, a period of great uncertainty.
But the current impact and surge capacity of the nation’s healthcare system being directed into Victoria, it also allows adequate time for Tasmania to prepare, to ensure that our aged care sector is ready, to ensure that our hospitals are ready, and it also enables us the opportunity to protect our economy which has, I’ve said, you know, I think around the state we’ll see many Tasmanians who are cautiously optimistic about the steps that we’re taking.
National Cabinet today agreed on a plan for the establishment of aged care response sectors, if needed, should any state or jurisdiction need the assistance of the Commonwealth to deal with an outbreak.
Obviously they’ve set up such a vehicle in Victoria at the moment, in fact, we’re advised today that they are auditing at the moment around 40 nursing homes per day, turning up and actually working with these nursing homes in terms of their facilities and management to ensure that they are well prepared and taking every step they can.
We’ll continue to work with the aged care sector here in Tasmania to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to ensure that it is prepared and ready for when we open to other safe jurisdictions.
But as we have been throughout this pandemic, we will continue to be agile and to be responsive.
We’ll continue to rely on Public Health advice to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of Tasmanians is not comprised and, importantly, as I’ve said, Tasmanians should plan for the 1st of December.
We will take Public Health advice. If we can open to safe jurisdictions before that we will but, again, if things worsen in the country, then it will be a different decision to be made in terms of the 1st f December.
In terms of restrictions here in the state, I do want to remind people to follow the rules.
In relation to the two square metre rule in venues that supports the density for indoor gatherings - people should continue to be mindful of that, they should ensure that they have good hygiene, maintain good social distancing and continue to follow the rules.
Where we can, we will look to loosen internal restrictions, if appropriate.
Public Health have been looking at the circumstance regarding eight-ball and darts in our hotels and clubs, other venues, and at the end of next week, darts and eight-ball will be able to be played.
There will be some consultation early next week with the sector, just to ensure that they understand their COVID-19 response plans and that they have them in place.
But I think for many people, they’ll be quite pleased with that announcement.
I want to thank the Public Health team for their advice and the work that they have done right through what has been a very difficult period in terms of providing a firm set of restrictions, a sensible set of restrictions, restrictions that keep people safe, and I would ask people to continue to follow them. It’s very important.
In terms of our focus on recovery.
Whilst I think everybody’s clear that we need to take every step that we can to ensure that we protect ourselves against a devastating second wave, people should take note of the fact that New Zealand has been caught, that Victoria is obviously in a very challenging situation at the moment.
But we need to be re-focussed on rebuilding our economy, that’s why were incentivising Tasmanians from what will be the first Monday in September to support their local tourism and hospitality sector
As we’ve said, we’ll be providing vouchers of up $100 for saying in a commercial accommodations setting midweek, and that will be from the first Monday in September, and obviously vouchers of up to $50 for tourism experiences and attractions where you’d need to pay to enter or should take to go on a visit.
Consultation is well underway with the sector at the moment, and I expect to have more to say next week in terms of how that will work.
Importantly, if you look at the very successful model that occurred in the Northern Territory, it supported industry, it supported their tourism-hospitality sector, and that’s exactly what we want to see occur here.
We’re working in partnership as well with agricultural employers and industry to give opportunity to our local workers to help meet immediate labour needs for the coming harvest season. We’ve agreed with our National Cabinet in terms of a set of principles and protocols.
I announced earlier this week that the first step of that is to ensure that we test our local workforce first.
We’ll start with an Expression of Interest process that will be advertised in coming days, and we are looking to ensure that we can provide opportunity for Tasmanians that are looking for work over the harvest season first and foremost, and then there’ll be a set of processes worked out in terms of how we manage temporary visa holders, if necessary, into the state to support, bearing in mind that we do have a significant number of temporary visa holders in the state, and some work is also being done at a national level in terms of the hours that they can work whilst here on their visa, and should they be needed to fill jobs that are available, then there’ll be an opportunity there as well.
I want to just say once again thank you to Tasmanians for their continuing support throughout this.
We are in a really good spot.
I must admit, you know, every time I go to National Cabinet, I leave feeling thankful for the circumstances that we are in Tasmania.
To hear the Victorian Premier today, albeit with a lower set of overall case numbers, we are in such a good spot in Tasmania. It is important that we maintain that, that we manage sensibly through this.
I think, as we’ve said on every occasion, that we’ve stood here, there will be cases that occur in Tasmania at different times.
You know, we need to be ready for that. It shouldn’t come as a shock to people.
This is a highly infectious disease.
What people need to take comfort from is that we are putting in place the steps in terms of ensuring that we can protect our community, that we have rapid response, that we have tracking and tracing, that our health system has the capacity to deal with a surge, if needed, importantly, that our aged care sector is very well prepared.
I’ll hand over to Dr Veitch, but importantly, I’ll once again remind Tasmanians, you know, wash your hands regularly, have good personal hygiene, make certain that if you have to cough or sneeze, you do so into your elbow or into a tissue, make certain that you socially distance and do the right thing by your community.