Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 3 MAY 2020

Minister for Health Sarah Courtney

Good morning, I’ll start by providing a coronavirus update for Tasmania. As of 6pm last night, we had no more cases of coronavirus.

We currently have 221 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Tasmania. 158 people have recovered. While these results over the past 48 hours have been encouraging, it is really important that we remain vigilant. We need to be really cautious that with this disease. We know in other jurisdictions, we know in other countries, we have seen second waves which have had devastating consequences. So please, I ask Tasmanians, while this is very encouraging, we cannot be complacent and we must continue to ensure we’re complying with all the measures.

To that end, I’d like to reiterate that although we are seeing some restrictions on the North West ease as of tomorrow, restrictions remain across the whole state. You can only go out for essential reasons. If you need to go to school, need to go to work, need to go and get groceries, or you need to go to the doctor or pharmacist. You cannot go over to a mate’s place for a barbecue. I want to be really clear that the restrictions remain across Tasmania and police are going to continue to monitor those. These conditions are in place to keep us safe. We know that we’ve had an encouraging 48 hours but we also know we have a number of Tasmanians that have coronavirus, we know that we have a number of Tasmanians that have been treated in hospital, so we need to remain cautious and we need to remain vigilant.

With regards to these restrictions, they will be maintained until mid-May. The Premier will talk more about this during the week, however, I just want to be clear for all Tasmanians: there is a lot of different messages coming from different jurisdictions, but here in Tasmania, you must stay at home unless you’re going out for essential reasons. If you’re exercising, you can only do that with one other person, so please remain close to your home, stay safe and save lives. That message remains the same.

With regards to our testing, again our testing numbers have remained strong. We had 689 Tasmanians present at respiratory clinics yesterday: 210 of these were in the South, 100 in the North and 379 across the North West, including 71 at the mobile clinic in Smithton. Once again, I’d like to reiterate, please if you’re across Tasmania and you have symptoms, phone the Public Health hotline, particularly if you’re in the North West. It is nice to see the numbers that we have had over the last 48 hours, we still need to remain vigilant so please if you have a sore throat, if you have a runny nose, if you have a bit of a cough, please call the Public Health hotline – it is really important, not just for your safety but for the safety of your family, your loved ones and your community.

With regards to the North West Regional Hospital, a lot of work has undergone the last few days, and the last few weeks indeed, and very pleased we’re going to see the continued reopening of this hospital this coming week. Our priority is for recommencing services over this week will be maternity services, radiation oncology, as well as ICU and we’re also looking to have the Spencer Clinic back up and running during the week. For patients that will need to access these services, please contact your doctor, please contact your midwife – they’ll be able to give you the right advice as we see these progressively open throughout the week. It’s important we do it in a progressive way. There’s a lot of work that has undergone to make sure this is safe for our patients and for our staff and for the whole community. So we need to make sure as we open each service that we’re 100% sure that it’s safe to open.

I’d just like to thank the staff there – they’ve worked really hard over the past week and a half to make sure they’ve got the training that they need, we have deployed additional PPE to those sites and so I thank those staff for the work they’ve done. I’d also like to thank the crew at the Mersey Community Hospital. They have been working very hard during this period of time. And also acknowledge the Launceston General Hospital. With no new admissions across the North West sites, the LGH has taken considerably more patients at the site and we’re very appreciative for your hard work and the way you’ve cared for Tasmanians.

Turning to the south of the state and K Block at the RHH. This exciting development continues to be opened and as of tomorrow, we will be opening up the hyperbaric chambers. This will be able to ensure patients that need this specialist level of care are able to get it. There are going to be two monoplace chambers that are going to be available for patients who are unable to sit or cannot tolerate the traditional method of oxygen delivered by a hood or a mask. Also, we know with hyperbaric chambers that we usually associate those with diving industries. It’s really important to recognise that these also treat other conditions that affect many Tasmanians each year, such as tissue injury due to radiation from cancer, diabetic wound and serious infections such as gangrene. So this world class facility will be able to deliver world class care for Tasmanians, which is very exciting. Furthermore, this chamber has been fitted with dual capability to pressurise, which is hyperbaric and depressurise, which is hypobaric, and is the first one in the southern hemisphere. So this is very exciting and will facilitate research as well as patient care. So it’s great to see that while we are still dealing very much with a pandemic and the preparations that are required for that, that we’re still able to ensure that we’re delivering care for Tasmanians and ensure that we’re investing in our facilities across the state.

Finally before I turn to Dr McKeown to make some comments, I’d just like to turn to my portfolio as Minister for Women. We know we’re asking people to stay home during this pandemic but home is not always safe for all women, so the Government is very cognisant of that. In addition to the $2.7 million that we have further invested into measures to be able to prevent family violence, we also have signed a partnership with the Australian Government to boost our responses and we have received $1.4 million additional funding as part of that partnership. I’d like to say to all women that are in vulnerable situations out there – the Government is still here to support you. We have many mechanisms of support. If your usual mechanisms of support are not available, please make sure you go to 1800 RESPECT – either phone the line, go onto the website – there are many avenues of support and I’d like to reassure you and your families we will make sure we keep you safe during this challenging time.

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