Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 28 MAY 2020

Good morning, everyone.

Tasmania is in a very good place at the moment but, as I’ve said, we need to get to a better place.

We've reported zero cases for 12 days, active cases are now reduced to eight and, most importantly, testing levels have been increased, and the Health Minister will run through that in more detail.

This is good news. We are in a good place, but we do need to get to that better place.

And I do want to thank every Tasmanian for the way that they have engaged and the work that they have done and, importantly, their discipline and their patience, as we have worked through this process.

There is a delicate balance that we have to get right between opening up our economy and ensuring that we keep Tasmanians safe. And I know that frustrations will rise, as we work our way through this period but our aim, first and foremost, always has to be to ensure that we keep Tasmanians safe, and step back into our economy when it’s safe to do so.

I do want to make the point that we should not forget that this virus is still decimating countries in other parts of the world and that we are seeing cases in other parts of this country. And, importantly, we need to ensure that we remain disciplined and vigilant, as we work our way through this.

Our recovery plan relies on four safeguards to ensure that we can confidently continue to ease restrictions.

Obviously, we need to support our businesses and ensure that they have COVID safety plans in place, and I know that there has been an enormous amount of work that’s been done both within Government, within industry associations and within businesses to ensure that they can keep both their staff safe and, importantly, those customers who will come to those businesses safe, and I want to thank businesses for the work that they’re doing.

We need to ensure that we can track and trace and, once again I want to reiterate how important it is that people do download the COVID Safe app. You won’t need it until you need it, and then, when it’s necessary, it will be important in ensuring that if there is the virus in our community we can track and trace quickly.

Our rapid response capabilities are in place. We are in a position where we can respond rapidly, and it’s important that we have that capacity as we move forward and as we continue to increase and remove restrictions and allow people to do more. It’s going to be so important that, should the virus bubble up in any part of our community, that we are in a position to track and trace and respond rapidly.

Finally, testing is of paramount importance, and the Minister will speak more about that, but I’d just like to thank those Tasmanians that have taken the opportunity to turn up at one of our drive-through clinics. I think it is important that you take the opportunity to be tested. If you have a sniffle, if you’ve had any symptoms in the last seven days, make certain that you turn up and you get tested. It is so important that we continue to increase our numbers in that space.

In one week we’ll be looking towards the June long weekend. I’m sure many Tasmanians, myself included, are looking forward to that break. I’m hopeful that we can continue the good progress that we’re making and that we’ll be in a position to look at easing some of the restrictions. But I do not want to get in front of ourselves. We will be guided by Public Health in looking at what restrictions can be lifted.

In terms of shacks, obviously there are a lot of people who have an interest in that. But, again, I do want to put very clearly on the record that the reason that people aren’t visiting their shacks at the moment is that those communities that shacks are in mainly have older and more vulnerable populations living in them, and that will always be at the forefront of our mind, as we work our way through this.

And so, I want to say very clearly, don’t get in front of yourselves and take the view that come the long weekend that you’ll be able to be back at the shack. That may very well not be the case. I just want to put that clearly on the record.

I do urge Tasmanians to remain patient and to remain vigilant, as we work our way through this. We’ve come such a long way. Let’s not stumble just as we’re getting to what many would see to be the finishing line.

Can I just make this point, and I used a football analogy the other day, whilst in terms of our current response we are in the last quarter and the breeze is at our back, but football games are played as part of a season and at this point there’s still a fair bit of the season to work through.

In terms of recovery and how we move forward. Next week, as we return to Parliament, I’ll be releasing the details in terms of our construction program. It will be the most aggressive construction program that’s been laid out in this State and it will have a range of developments whereby the Government will be investing and that we will be providing stimulus to parts of the economy to invest as well.

It’s going to be important to the construction industry because of the way that the construction industry drives aggregate demand. I know in this room I’ve been asked questions about whether the construction industry is a male-only industry. Well, it’s not anymore, I’ll make that point very clearly that it’s not.

But, importantly, the construction sector drives aggregate demand which will then enable money to be spent in our hotels, in our restaurants, in our retail sector, and it will support the jobs in those sectors as well. And it’s very important to understand that particular point.

The other matter I want to raise just very quickly, just in terms of eradication. The rough rule of thumb is that eradication is usually two cycles. And I note that there has been some commentary about the fact that Tasmania would need to see eradication in other parts of the country before we might consider lifting our borders.

We will always be mindful of ensuring that the health and safety of Tasmanians is at the forefront of our thinking, but in terms of our borders, for the entire country to eradicate this virus would be a very difficult task, and so we need to ensure that whilst we are very vigilant in Tasmania, that when we do open our borders that we are confident that if there is still transmission in small part in some jurisdictions that we need to be confident that we could manage that in terms of both our health system, in terms of our tracking and tracing, in terms of our rapid response. And that’s exactly what we’re looking to do.

In terms of our borders, we will continue to review them as we work our way through this, and I expect that in early July we will be able to make a decision in terms of when our borders will open and whether that will be sooner or later. I would hope it could be sooner but, again, we’ll be guided by Public Health advice as we work our way through that.

I’ll hand over to the Health Minister to make some comments about the very, very good level of testing that we’re seeing at the moment.

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