Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 4 JUNE 2021

Premier Peter Gutwein

Victoria has reported another four cases of COVID-19, taking the total number of cases associated with the current outbreak to 65, and I know I speak on behalf of all Tasmanians when I say that our thoughts are with Victoria, obviously they are going through a very tough period at the moment.

Tasmanian health authorities will continue to monitor the situation daily, and the advice is that the current travel restrictions that we have in place with Victoria should remain in place and for all of Victoria at this stage.

This is due to the fact that whilst there are only a small number of cases being recorded daily, there remain hundreds of exposure sites, I think more than 300 still, including some in regional Victoria.

This means that Victoria remains a high-risk area, and you cannot travel to Tasmania if you’ve been in Victoria in the previous 14 days, unless you are approved as an essential traveller.

Tasmanian residents can apply for essential traveller status to return home, but if approve they are being required to quarantine at a suitable premise and are require to be tested before Day 3 and on or after Day 12 while in quarantine.

My strong advice for all Tasmanians is that if you have any symptoms, any symptoms at all, even mild, isolate immediately and book a test with the Public Health hotline by calling 1800 671 738, keep checking the list of high-risk premises on the coronavirus website.

Today, National Cabinet met to discuss the vaccination rollout, especially in regards to the nation’s aged care facilities.

There was a discussion regarding mandating vaccinations for all aged care workers, and this is being referred to AHPPC for further advice.

I support the AHPPC being requested to provide further advice.

Subject to that advice I expect that we will introduce mandatory vaccination for aged care workers, once a national timeline has been established but, again, subject to that AHPPC advice.

And, obviously, if it becomes mandatory, that will be subject to any of the normal medical exemptions that would apply, and the aged care sector is obviously well versed with vaccinations in terms of the flu vaccinations already, in terms of its workforce.

Now, here in Tasmania we stepped in to help vaccinate our aged care residents and staff.

There is still more work to do.

Once again I want to encourage all aged care workers to get the vaccination, protect yourself, protect those that you’re caring for, protect your workplace, importantly, help protect our community.

National Cabinet also discussed the disaster payment arrangements put in place to assist Victoria businesses impacted by the snap lockdown that’s occurring at the moment.

I can confirm that the state has agreed to a program that would see the Commonwealth responsible for income support at an individual level, and the State Government will be responsible for business support.

This is largely in line with the way that we managed in terms of the first lockdowns that we saw early last year, whereas the Commonwealth managed income support, and we provided business support packages.

These disaster arrangements and payment arrangements would only obviously apply in Tasmania if we were to have another lockdown, and once again I would encourage Tasmanians to continue to do the right thing, make sure that you wash your hands, make sure that you appropriately socially distance, follow the rules and if unwell, even if mildly, well, please get a test.

As I’ve said on many occasions, high rates of testing and vaccination remains the best way for us to return to a more normal way of living.

It’s very pleasing at the moment that over the last week we’ve averaged somewhere between 650 and 750 test a day, peaking at over 1,000 on some days and, importantly, we’re boosting Tasmania’s testing capacity with a new testing facility at Macquarie Point at Hobart.

The facility will open from 8:30am to 3:30 pm daily with capacity for up to six lanes of drive-through testing and walk-in testing, if demand requires it, and this will help keep our testing rates high and meet demand during the colder months and in response to potential snap lockdowns, as we have seen in terms of Victoria which has obviously increased Tasmanians’ desire to be tested.

In terms of our vaccination rollout, we’re no almost at the end of Week 15 of the program.

Around 120,000 Tasmanians, or more than 27% of Tasmanians 16 years and over, have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

I understand we’ve had very strong interest in vaccination this week in our community clinics, as I’ve said, largely as a result of people being very cognisant of what’s occurring in Victoria and the need to ensure that they take what steps they can to protect themselves and their community.

Today, National Cabinet also decided to revise the future phase of the vaccine rollout to open up access to other cohorts, which will include people aged 40 to 49 years of age, all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 16 years and over, NDIS participants aged 16 years and over and carers aged 16 years and over, and temporary visa holders under 50 who are in Australia and are approved for return travel to Australia through the travel exemption process, but that will be a matter for the Commonwealth Government to advise us in terms of their eligibility.

There is no change to the recommended vaccines, with AstraZeneca recommended for 50 years and over, and Pfizer recommended for the 16 to 49 year age group.

It is important that bookings be made, and to help us as we manage through the expected additional demand, I’d encourage people to book and make certain that they are in the queue.

It helps us to run our vaccination centres effectively and efficiently and, importantly, we can announce that we will be having a new community clinic opening in Moonah from next week as well, and this clinic will offer the Pfizer vaccine and have extended opening hours, including weekends.

Other clinics coming on line include a Pfizer clinic in Burnie, which is open now, and an AstraZeneca clinic in Scottsdale, which will open in late June, and Kath can provide more details on those.

In addition to our existing community clinics, we have over 93 GPs involved in the Tasmanian rollout, and I understand that we’ve had applications from, I think it was more than a dozen more that are looking to come on line as well and be part of the program, so please book an appointment and ensure that you get your vaccination when you can.

As we had into the season with colds and flus again, and I just want to make this point, please stay home if you are unwell, and if you have symptoms, even mild, please don’t hesitate to get tested.

I want to touch on a matter, I know one of my Ministers spoke about it briefly this morning, that was in terms of the temporary closure of the Tasman Highway.

I understand it’s a real inconvenience, however, people’s lives and safety must come first.

I’ve heard firsthand and through my Minister the impact this is having on businesses in the region, and I’m committed, as we have said, where Government needs to do more, we will do more to minimise the effect of business closures and the impact on individuals.

These conversations, and I know that I had Ministers on the Coast earlier this week who have helped inform our understanding of the situation, I can once again confirm today that we are working to develop a package of support for businesses directly affected.

Our focus is on helping them to get through the period, and the package of support will reflect that.

If businesses have been affected and they haven’t already registered, I urge them to contact Business Tasmania to register their details.

The number is 1800 440 026, 1800 440 026, or you can go online and ask at business.tas.gov.au and register your interest, and further details on the specifics of the business support package will be provided later next week.

I want to just be in touch on AFL as well, in terms of the AFL match to be played at Blundstone Arena on Sunday 13 June, noting that at this stage, all things being equal, we would expect that Victoria should come out of its lockdown before that date, but yesterday, as was announced by the Deputy State Controller, he’s begun planning to facilitate the match between North Melbourne and Greater Western Sydney on 13 June.

These arrangement are being informed by Public Health and involve players and necessary support staff flying in and out of Hobart on that day on dedicated charter flights under strict COVID protocols,.

While the plans are dependent on how the COVID-19 situation develops in Victoria over the coming days, and I want to be clear, you know, at this stage we are hopeful that Victoria will improve, certainly it appears to be stabilising its position but, again, we will rely on Public Health advice if that situation becomes more difficult in Victoria.

Again, Public Health advice will inform the final decision on whether that match can occur.

The arrangements follow the normal process in place for exemptions requested from the Deputy State Controller who acts with the advice of Public Health.

We’re also open to the possibility of, as I expressed to Gil McLachlan, of hosting more AFL games in Tasmania, or an AFL hub if the situation demands, and that would, when I say demands, if the situation in Victoria was to be extended or if it obviously were to worsen.

And I’ve let the AFL know last week, and Gil and I will be in touch, I expect, later today again on this matter, as we work through this.

However, to be clear, we won’t do anything to put Tasmanians at risk, and we will act only on Public Health advice at all times.

If I could hand over to Kathryn Morgan-Wicks, and she’ll provide you with a more detailed update on the vaccination effort.

But, once again, I just remind Tasmanians, as we’re heading into winter, maintain good hand hygiene, make sure that you’re covering your coughs and sneezes, importantly, if you feel unwell, even mildly, please get a test.

***