Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 26 APRIL 2020

Minister for Health Sarah Courtney

I start today on a sombre note, because I have to announce that we have had another death from coronavirus.

Yesterday, a man in his 90s died from coronavirus, and today I can confirm that another man in his 90s, being cared for in the Mersey Community Hospital, has passed away.

This brings our total deaths to 11; ten of these in the North West of the State.

I’d like to pass on my sincere sympathies to both men’s families and loved ones. This is a very challenging time for them, and the entire North West community.

With regards to other updates of coronaviruses in Tasmania, as at 6pm last night, we had an additional one case of coronavirus confirmed, bringing the State’s total to 208.

This man worked at the MCH. He worked in the COVID Ward. And I’d like to be very clear that this man only worked in the COVID Positive Ward.

We’ve been working swiftly and have been overnight to identify close contacts. I’d like to reassure other staff at that site, that this gentleman has presented swiftly, we are working closely with him overnight in regards to that, and he did only work within the COVID Ward of that hospital.

We have 123 Tasmanians who have recovered and been released from isolation.

I’d like to thank the North West community for their responsiveness with regards to testing.

We have been asking the community now, for over a week, to please come forward and be tested. It’s really important for us to get an understanding of coronavirus within that community.

Yesterday we had 509 Tasmanians present at our respiratory clinics. In the South we had 57; in the North we had 23; at Burnie we had 176; at Devonport we had 211; and the mobile clinic at Smithton saw 42 people.

It’s very pleasing to see that for today we already have over 450 Tasmanians booked in to get their respiratory test, so thank you Tasmania for your responsiveness. We do really appreciate this awareness you have of your symptoms.

It is important that if you do have any symptoms at all, no matter how mild, that you do contact your GP, or you contact the Public Health Hotline.

With regards to the progress at the North West Regional Hospital, I’d like to thank the contractors and staff working tirelessly across those sites to declutter and clean them, so that we can return services there as soon as possible.

During this time, it has given us the opportunity to allow us to make structural changes to enhance infection control, particularly at the NWRH. As I’ve discussed before, that site does allow for the relatively free movement for people so this is allowing us to make sure that site, when it is restaffed and patients are back there, it will have the right structural settings to make sure that we can isolate COVID patients from non-COVID patients.

I’d like to thank the staff for the patience during this time, I know it’s been a stressful situation. And I’d like to thank the broader North West community. This has been an incredibly challenging time for your entire community. I’d like to reassure you that the Government is working as hard as we can to get those facilities up and running as soon as possible.

However we need to make sure we do this in a safe way, for your patients, your staff and the broader community.

I understand that the restrictions that we have asked Tasmanians to undergo are tough. I get that it’s hard not being able to see your family and friends; that it’s hard not being able to participate in the things that you enjoy doing. I get that it’s been a huge impact on many people who have had to cancel important events, such as weddings, anniversaries and birthdays.

But I would like to reassure Tamanians that these have not been requested of you lightly.

We are doing this, because this is based on the best public health advice. We know that we have asked the North West to continue complying for another week to their extended restrictions. We know that all of Tasmania will continue having restrictions until 15 May. And I ask everybody to please continue to comply. It is incredibly important.

If you’re wondering why, please for a moment pause, and think about the health care workers on the front line at the moment, caring for COVID patients.

Think about the health care workers who in the future are the ones who will be asked to respond to any outbreak.

Think about the small businesses in your community who have had to lay off staff.

And think about the family members of people that we have had die of coronavirus in Tasmania.

I understand that the restrictions are having a huge impact on people’s lives – I do get that. But please, please comply. It is important for your whole community that Tasmanians continue. We continue to monitor the situation very closely and I thank the many, many who have been responding in a responsible way.

We will get through this, we will be strong at the end of this, and we will do that be working together and I thank Tasmanians for their responsiveness.