Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 30 MARCH 2020

Premier Peter Gutwein

... A woman in her eighties this morning passed away in the North West Regional Hospital. This woman was being treated for COVID-19. I want to extend my heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies to her friends and loved ones. I understand the Coroner’s been notified and the family are receiving the social support and care that they need at this time.

I have been saying for weeks that this is serious, that people will die and, unfortunately, Tasmania now has its first death. All Tasmanians need to accept and understand that this is not a game. This is serious. People’s lives are at risk.

We’ve taken early steps in Tasmania. We’ve now got the toughest border measures in the country operating. All non-essential travellers arriving in the state from midnight will be placed into Government-run quarantine facilities. Up until this point, people have been placed into self-isolation. As from today, they will be in Government-run quarantine facilities. As of last night, in terms of the measures that we introduced yesterday, in terms of those international or cruise ship passengers that might have arrived in the country from 14th March, as of last night, we have seven people in Government-controlled facilities that have travelled either overseas or are cruise passengers.

Our borders are the most secure in the country, and we make no apologies for that. However, there are other steps that we must take to limit the person to person transmission of this disease. And I want to make this point, because the measures that we are introducing today will be difficult for some Tasmanians. Many countries that you look at around the world that are struggling with the challenges of COVID-19 did not take steps early enough, and as a result they found themselves having to go into a full economic and social shutdown, a full lockdown which is both socially and economically devastating. I don’t want us to get to that point, but we are going to have to take some further steps, and we will be doing so today.

The best way to combat the spread of coronavirus is preventing human to human contact. We understand the rules around social distancing. We introduced rules in terms of mass gatherings. All have been done to ensure that we reduce the number of people that interact, because every time you are able to reduce that number of interaction, you can limit the risk of spread. That’s why we agree with last night’s national cabinet consensus that the maximum number of people at a public gathering should be reduced from 10 people to two people. This will be enforced in Tasmania from midnight tonight. This means, aside for your household, public gatherings, including exercise, will be reduced to two people.

National Cabinet also agreed, and I agree, that playgrounds, skate parks and outside gyms in public places will also be closed. Things like boot camps will be reduced to two persons, including the trainer. This means, aside from your household, if you were to go for a walk, you could do it with one other person. If you go for a bike ride, play golf, run, horse ride, it can only be with one other person after midnight tonight. To people. That’s all.

I want to be clear, if you have a household like mine and there are four people in it and you want to go for a walk down the street, then you still can, but nobody else can join you, because that will be above the 2-limit.

These are tough measures, but they’re done with Tasmanians’ health, wellbeing and safety as our first priority. Every decision we’ve made today is to flatten the curve and to stop the spread of coronavirus in our community.

Fortunately, to date we haven’t been as affected by the virus as some other states. We’ve said consistently, the best place for people to be is at home, unless they need to be getting essential supplies, medical or compassionate care, exercise or going to work or school, if this can’t be done from home. My message has been and will remain, staying home will save lives.

Now, we’ve seen the vast majority of people, a great many people, abiding by this advice to stay at home. Unfortunately, as I said yesterday, some people haven’t been. So, today I’m announcing that of midnight tonight, an order will come into effect to enforce those rules. This means, unless you’re going to work or school, getting essential or medical supplies, exercising or providing compassionate care, you’ll need to remain in your primary place of residence, and you’ll be committing an offence if you don’t. Compassionate care will be checking on a neighbour or an elderly relative.

Now, this order will be in place for four weeks and will be reviewed during that period.

To be clear, your primary residence means your usual fixed location, and you must stay at this fixed location until such time as these challenges that we face are over and this order is revoked.

These are tough rules, I know that. And it’s a tough topic.

And I want to make the point to those that love their shacks, you won’t be able to go to your shack this school holidays or for Easter. Our shack communities, our coastal communities, in many cases are small and in many places are the place of choice for many of our older, retired community, and as is well understood, retirees are older and more vulnerable and by allowing a flood of people to go to shacks in those small communities, it increases the risk. There are more people using what are normally limited facilities and shopping arrangements in those coastal areas. You cannot do it. You simply cannot do it.

It gives me no pleasure to do this. And I cannot stress just how important it is. But if we are to do all in our power to stop the spread of this virus in Tasmania, then we must abide by the rules.

There will be some exemptions. If you’re currently self-isolating in your second property or shack, or if you choose to make that the place that you reside for the next four weeks, then you will be able to do that. But there will not be movement between your shack and your primary place of residence, allowing you to alternate and sleep nights in both. You will need to make a choice.

We’re putting in place these measures as it is our aim to avoid a devastating full shutdown as we have seen rolled out in other countries. What we’re going to do very clearly is we’re going to enforce and reinforce the existing rules. I want to stay ahead of those other jurisdictions. We’ve made it clear that if we can stay ahead of the curve by staying home, we will save lives.

In terms of the rules relating to what I just outlined, there will be a statement put out today, so that there is absolute clarity. The rules will come into effect from midnight tonight. Our police will ensure that they enforce this. You’ll be able to be arrested. You’ll be charged and summonsed. I have the Department at the moment looking at a range of on the spot fines, and I’ll say more about those as we move forward.

Our national Cabinet last night also agreed that we should all pay special attention to protecting our elderly and senior citizens who we know are particularly vulnerable to this virus. There will be no order issued on this, just very strong guidance. So, if you are 70 or over, or 60 years of age or over with underlying health conditions, you should be self-isolating. Self-isolation is the safest thing you can do. But I want to stress, this will be in place for at least four weeks. You know, make certain that you exercise, make certain that you ensure that you remain in contact with your family and friends and that you use where you can the telephone or skype, and if you need assistance, put your hand up, we will help you.

In terms of further restrictions on businesses, and customer-facing businesses especially, national cabinet will be having a further discussion on those matters tonight, and I will have more to say on those tomorrow.  But I want to be clear, if we follow the rules, if we stay home, we will save lives. And that is the most important thing that we can do. Let’s ensure that we don’t get to the same position that other countries have had to where a full social and economic shutdown is required. If we can limit person to person transmission, if we can appropriately ensure that the social distancing that we have started to employ is maintained and that if you don’t need to leave your house, you don’t, apart from those reasons that I have mentioned, we can slow the spread, we can flatten the curve without getting to the point where we need to shut, as other countries have had to, everything down. But it’s up to Tasmanians to take this step.

Now, in terms of schools and workplaces. Many of our students, as of today, will be learning from home. And I want to thank our educators for their engagement and for the way that they have worked so diligently to put in place distance learning and also learning support where it hasn’t been appropriate or able to utilise technology. As schools remain open, and they will support the children of parents who need to go to work, whether in essential services or in our industries that are still operating. They will also provide support for those children of families that aren’t able to adequately provide a learning environment at home.

Many of our workplaces are transitioning to working from home. If you work in an office environment and can work from home, in agreement with your manager or your boss, you should do so from this week.

In terms of the State Government state servants. Any state servants who are not required in our frontline or essential services will also be encouraged this week to work from home and supported to work from home. For state servants, speaking to your manager and to your head of agency, and we will implement and support you to transition to home base work. Now, this won’t work for everybody, and obviously our frontline services need to be maintained. And so, our agency heads will work with their workforces to ensure that we can continue to deliver the essential services that we need and that, importantly, those who are essential to ensuring that Government can continue, will still work from our offices. But obviously with appropriate social distancing measures in place which, I have to say, are being employed to the letter by our agencies.

In terms of where employees remain at work, whether in the private or public sector, you will need to follow all recommended personal hygiene measures and physical distancing to ensure that you maintain the appropriate social distancing in your workplace. Now, this will be difficult, but as of this week, you know, we are getting deadly serious. The decisions that we have taken to this point to close businesses, to reduce social interaction have been very difficult, have been enormously difficult, but there will be more to come.

In terms of the rules that are being enforced, if we take this step now, we will slow the spread. And I want to be clear about that. We will slow the spread, we will flatten the curve. But we are all going to have to work extraordinarily hard to do so, and there will be some difficulties and there will be challenges, and I ask Tasmanians to work with us and abide by the rules. But I want to be clear. If you don’t, the police will have powers of arrest. They will summons and they will charge you. These are unprecedented times, and we must do all that we can to keep our families safe, to keep Tasmanians  safe, to look after their health, wellbeing and their safety.

I want to make this point as well. As from tomorrow, this will be a new Tasmania. It will be a different Tasmania, and you will need, and I would encourage you, to ensure that you pick up the phone and you talk to friends, that you enjoy dinner over skype together, you connect through social media, you check in on one another. There are gonna be some tough days ahead.  It will not be easy, but we will get there, we will come out the other side and, importantly, abide by the rules, stay home and save lives.

I’ll pass over to the Health Minister now for an update on other matters.

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