Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 24 APRIL 2020

Premier Peter Gutwein

Good morning.

First and foremost priority in Tasmania is to stay home and to save lives and keep Tasmanians safe. This is so important, because this virus can be deadly

Unfortunately, I, once again, have to stand here and let you know that another person has died. A 79-year old North West woman with coronavirus who was being cared for at the LGH has passed away.  To the woman’s family, friends and loved ones, I am sorry. On behalf of the Government, I extend our condolences and sympathies to you all. To lose someone else is just an absolute tragedy.

It brings the total to nine lives lost in the state to the virus in the past month. As I’ve continually said, there will be bad days, but there will also be better days as well, and today, unfortunately, is another one of those bittersweet moments. To stand here and have to announce that we have lost another life, is something that give some deep concern and is, you know, again, something that, I must admit, troubles me deeply, and I find it very difficult to do. However, what it does do, it sharpens my resolve to get on top of this and to stamp out this insidious virus.

Overnight we had the circumstance of no more positive tests. You know, this is the first time in around three weeks that I can say we’ve had no positive tests in Tasmania as a result of the recent testing. There were several hundred tests conducted, and that’s the type of result that we want to see. But we do need to do more testing, and the Health Minister will talk about those matters in a moment.

I think we can be cautiously optimistic about the road ahead, but what we need to do, especially in the North West, is to deepen our testing and to ensure that we have a really good understanding of what’s occurring right across that community.

That’s why today, following advice from Public Health, we’ve taken the extremely difficult decision to extend the additional restrictions, the additional retail restrictions that are in place on the North West Coast out for another week until next Sunday 3rd May.

It’s not a decision that is taken lightly, and I know many in the North West will be unhappy about this. But we need to get on top of this, we need to stamp this out, we need to crush this virus and we need to understand right across the community if this virus is there and, importantly, to track and trace it aggressively.

While there are certainly promising signs that the North West is coming under control, an additional week off deeper testing will ensure that we have a very clear understanding of what’s occurring right across the Coast, and it will be our best opportunity to ensure that we have this outbreak completely under control and, importantly, if there are pockets to stamp them out as quickly as we possibly can.

And I would ask that the people of the North West bear with us. This is difficult, I understand that. If there were another way, we would take it. But it’s important that we follow the rules, that these restrictions remain in place and that we all do our bit to save a life.

As I have said continuously, don’t go out and run the risk of bringing this virus back to your home. Don’t go out and run the risk of bringing this virus back to your pregnant sister or to your partner or to your children or taking it into the house of your parents. Follow the rules, stay safe and save lives.

I want to thank the thousands of healthcare workers and their families who will come out of quarantine on the weekend, on Sunday, for going through this with us. It has been difficult, but I think that we can see that the results are starting to demonstrate that there is a pathway, a positive pathway. But we need to ensure that we are right on top of this.

Extended restrictions for the next week will mean that schools in the North West will not resume for the first four days of Term 2 next week. Teachers will continue to undertake preparations for Term 2 from home and school sites will be closed. In the event that there are students living in the North West region, but their school is outside their municipal area, they should stay at home as well and must be kept at home.

Most importantly for the coming week, as I said, in the North West, we are seeking to broaden and depend our testing. And, as I’ve said, the Health Minister will talk more about that, but we want as many people as we can across the region to be tested. If the virus is anywhere across the North West community, we want to find it, we want to stamp it out, we want to crush it.

Anyone in the North West who has even the slightest sniffle, contact the Public Health line or your GP and get tested. I know that, you know, there has been, and I received some feedback this morning from some people who contacted the Public Health Hotline and thought that they should have been tested and weren’t, if there has been any confusion, we will sort it out. If you’ve got any concerns at all, contact your GP or your Public Health Hotline, and we will test you.

And I just want to say to the North West Coast, please stay home and save lives. And I know, you know, a lot of people will be annoyed by this, a lot of people will be concerned, but this is the best way to get on top of it. You know, we need to take these steps now and ensure that we can crush this.

If you’ve got concerns, contact me. My email address is on the web, it’s there. If you’ve got concerns and you want to raise an issue, contact me, and I’ll certainly get back to you as quickly as we possibly can. But we need to do this to ensure that we get on top of it.

In terms of students around the rest of the state. Schools will be open, and our advice to parents remains the same in those other regions as it was prior to the break. If our children can learn from home, this is the best place for them to be, noting that we do not expect parents to be experts. There’ll be teachers who continue to lead students’ learning.

School sites will however be open for students who cannot be supported or supervised to learn from home, for example due to parents’ work commitments. Your child’s teacher will provide you with learning activities and tasks to support that learning at home. The learning that is provided has been designed to meet your child’s needs, and the Education Minister will say more about this later today.

In terms of children at home, I do want to make this point. If they’re staying at home, it’s your responsibility to ensure that you can care for them and supervise them. If you can’t, schools in the other two regions, apart from the North West, will be open, and we will encourage you to do what you can to keep your children at home, to provide learning for them, but if you can’t, schools will be open. I want to be very clear about that.

I want to touch on Anzac Day which tomorrow will be a day like no other. Ceremonies will not be held around the state. There will obviously be some televised ceremonies, both from the Canberra War Memorial and also from Anglesea Barracks here in Hobart tomorrow.

I would ask that you follow the social distancing rules. This will be very difficult. This is a very solemn and importantly day for many people, but I would ask that you show respect by doing your bit tomorrow on Anzac Day to save lives.

Please stand at your front gate or on your balcony or your porch and light up the dawn with either a torch or a candle. Or simply turn on your porch light. Show our respect for those who’ve served and for those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

I’ll come back to this again, and I know this will be difficult, and I know many veterans and those that have served, and I know families of those that have lost loved ones through different conflicts, this will be very difficult, but the best way the we can show our respect for those who have done so very much for us is to keep our community safe.

And I also want to be very clear to community leaders around the state, and we’ve had a number of requests for exemptions to lay wreaths at certain cenotaphs throughout the day. No exemptions are being granted. So, if you’re a mayor and you want to lay a wreath, please don’t. Lead your community by lighting up the dawn and shining a torch or a candle, have a minute’s silence at 6am and demonstrate to your community that the best way that we can respect those that have fallen is to ensure that we stay home and that we save lives.

The decision that were making today, especially, and as I said in terms of the North West, are difficult, but they are made with, you know, with the only key aim, the only key outcome that we want, is that we want people to protect each other, that we want to save lives, that we want to ensure that we get on top of this as quickly as we can. And, as I’ve said, the Health Minister will talk about testing, and Dr McKeown will provide further information as well.

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