Premier Peter Gutwein
Good afternoon, with me today I have Dr Mark Veitch, I also have Kathryn Morgan-Wicks who is the Secretary of Health and Dale Webster, Deputy Secretary of Health as well, and they will be assisting this in terms of the discussion around the vaccination rollout.
Can I just begin by providing an update on current travel restrictions with Victoria, WA and New Zealand.
I will then, I want to provide some further information on entertainment venues and events, and
Finally, an update on our COVID-19 vaccine rollout strategy of which Kathryn Morgan-Wicks will provide some detail as well.
Firstly, under our current border arrangements.., is it Monty? Howdy, welcome to your presser here too, yeah. Good to see you.
Now, firstly, under our current border arrangements we need people who have recently arrived in Tasmania from Victoria, New Zealand and Western Australia to continue to be vigilant in checking which areas and premises of those jurisdictions pose a risk, as the information is continually being updated on our, both the Tasmanian website, but also on those jurisdictional websites as well, and ensure that they continue to monitor themselves for symptoms as well.
Now, up until today, and obviously the Western Australia Government have had a bit to say this afternoon, and I’ll say more about that in a moment, but up until today three large regions of Western Australia have been classified as high risk, so the Perth Metropolitan area, Peel and South West region.
In terms of New Zealand, nine premises in New Zealand remain high risk.
The travel bubble is open, and it’s been greenlighted, but obviously there are still nine premises in New Zealand that remain high risk people can’t travel from, and obviously quarantine will apply.
There are 14 premises in Victoria which have been declared high risk based on the movements of the recent COVID case as well.
Now, I just want to say at the start, anyone who has visited any of the high risk premises listed at the specific date and times should self-isolate immediately in their accommodation and call the Public Health hotline on 1800 671 738 for further advice and management by Public Health.
Now, in terms of Victoria.
Over the past 48 hours in terms of the Victorian situation, Public Health have moved swiftly and proportionately to respond to the situation in Victoria involving a hotel worker that has tested positive to the more virulent United Kingdom strain.
Pleasingly, this morning Victoria has announced that there have been no further new locally acquired cases identified in the past 48 hours since the announcement of the positive case.
Now, we’ll continue to take a precautionary approach to responding to this latest case to the highly transmissible nature of the strain, and based on the update provided by Victoria today, the 14 premises will remain at high risk at the time the worker visited them.
Anyone who has visited those premises at those times will not be permitted to travel to Tasmania.
We believe that response continues to be appropriate.
For Victorians who are now in Tasmania or anyone that has travelled to Victoria, into Victoria and has been there and then come into Tasmania after the 29th January, we obviously need you to continue to check the website and, importantly, we have been contacting anyone that has travelled.
Four people who are now in Tasmania and arrived from Victoria after 29th January have been identified of having been in those Victorian exposure locations.
I can say, pleasingly, that all have tested negative to COVID, but remain in quarantine.
Now, in terms of Western Australia, again, obviously, their Premier has announced some positive news with that state reporting no new local cases of COVID-19 up until eight pm last night.
The lockdown in that’s state is due to end at six pm this evening under this current form, however the WA Government has announced this afternoon some changes and restrictions in terms of the Perth and Peel regions until the 14th February, whilst the South Western region will return to pre-lockdown conditions.
Noting this latest advice from the WA Government, we’re currently reassessing our travel restrictions in terms of WA, and our Public Health officials at this time, obviously not Dr Veitch, but at this time our Public Health officials are meeting with AHPPC, and once we have clarity from the local WA health officials, we’ll announce any changes to our arrangements later today, but I think with the South Western region returning to pre-lockdown conditions I would be hopeful that we might see relaxation of our current standing there.
But, again, that will be a matter for Public Health and they’ll be informed fully once AHPPC finishes in a short time.
I just want to provide some general travel advice.
A reminder for anyone travelling to and from Tasmania or visiting our airports for any other reason, it’s now a legal requirement to wear a face mask in publicly accessible areas and during flights, including boarding and disembarking.
Anyone aged 12 years or older must have their mask on when they leave their vehicle on arrival at the airport.
This is an important measure in response to the increased risk posed by the emergence of the highly transmissible variant of COVID-19 and is a sensible approach, and it’s one that’s been taken right across the country in airports, where there is a mixing of large numbers of people from a range of different locations.
So, I would ask everyone to comply with this requirement and help us reduce the risk to you and your family and your friends.
The airports are providing masks, they are accessible but, importantly, you know, I think for those of you that want to travel I think it’s important that you get used to having a mask in your back pocket.
You know, let’s be frank, it’s not the most onerous thing to ask someone to do.
IF you’re going to travel, make sure that you’ve got a mask.
I want to speak briefly about entertainment events and venues.
On advice from Public Health, we’ll be enabling more people to attend cinemas, concerts, theatres and similar entertainment venues, effective immediately.
Increasing the number of people must be done carefully and safely, and there are conditions.
Assessment and approval of larger events or venue operations in accordance with the event’s framework is still required, and so when I say immediately, subject to having a COVID safe plan in place.
For an indoor event though of more than 250 people with fixed seating in a venue like a theatre, the number of patrons permitted is now up to 75% of the fixed seating capacity.
Importantly, if filling 75% of the seats means the density will be more than one person per two square meters, patrons and staff must wear a face mask, unless they are exempt from wearing a mask for medical reasons.
Some other states, New South Wales have had this measure in place for some time.
It will be strange for some, but if we want to have more people attending larger or having larger events in some of our smaller, more boutique theatres, then it’s important that we now wear a mask, if we’re going to go to 75%.
There will be exceptions, performers and children under 12 years won’t need to wear a mask, however, it’s important to follow the advice of the venue conducting the performance.
This is a question that gets asked all the time, people will be able to remove their mask to eat and drink, but generally the mask will need to be kept on for the duration of the event while everyone is indoors and as they enter and leave the venue.
This is importantly about making sure venues can maximise the numbers they can have at their performances, but that we can all go to events safely and protect ourselves and the people around us.
And again, do your very best, I know it’s difficult to maintain the 1.5 metres or two steps between yourself and others, when you can, especially in the foyer area etcetera.
Now, it goes without saying, the last thing that I will say on this is that don’t go to an event if you have any flu-like symptoms at all, don’t go to work, don’t go to a party, you know, let’s be sensible, we’ve done a really good job, let’s just continue to be vigilant, don’t let anyone introduce a level of complacency, and we’re in a good spot, let’s do anything we can to say there.
Now, I want to speak about the vaccination update, and then I hand over to Kathryn Morgan-Wicks, and the Dr Veitch will take any questions on the Public Health aspects I just raised in terms of our other states or our current position.
We are preparing for what will be without a doubt one of the biggest health logistical exercises in our country’s history.
Today, we’ll provide the first of what will become regular updates for the Tasmanian community as we prepare to roll out vaccines to every Tasmanian who wants to be vaccinated over the next few months, and I would hope that that will be the vast majority of our population over the course of this year.
Many of you would already be familiar with Kathryn Morgan-Wicks as Secretary of the Health Department who will be joining me as we provide these ongoing updates.
Kathryn will be assisted and supported by Dale Webster who is in charge of the Tasmanian Vaccination Operations Centre and is overseeing the team responsible for the vaccine’s rollout, and Dale may take part in some of the updates as we provide them.
The Government’s been preparing for the vaccine rollout now for seem months, including the activation of the Tasmanian Vaccination Emergency Operations Centre, TVEOC.
The centre is working closely with the Australian Government to plan the rollout across the Tasmanian community with thousands of people working on ensuring that it goes as smoothly as possible.
I do want to make this point again clear, we want as many Tasmanians as possible to get vaccinated.
The vaccine is free, it is safe and it’s available to everyone.
Any COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in Australia must pass the Australian Government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration and TGA’s rigorous assessment and approval process to ensure it is effective and safe for use.
The TGA announced provisional approval of the Pfizer vaccine on 25th January.
Today I’m pleased to advise that the rollout of this vaccine will begin in Tasmania later this month.
The Commonwealth has advised that we will receive in total 2,340 doses a week for the first three weeks, this will then double to 4,680 doses a week from the fourth week, as we start to deliver the second dose through March.
The number of allocated doses is based on Tasmania’s proportion of priority recipients nationally in the initial phase of the rollout.
It’s important that I stress that there will be a gradual start to the rollout, as Pfizer stock will be limited over the first few weeks, but it will pick up significantly near the end of March, and then, as Tasmania starts to receive batches of AstraZeneca vaccine for delivery to the wider population as well.
I just want to run through the priority groups and just explain some separation between ourselves and the Commonwealth.
Pfizer vaccine will be provided in priority groups first.
These will be quarantine and border workers, hotel quarantine staff, frontline at-risk healthcare workers, including key ambulance staff, hospital emergency department and ICU staff and COVID-19 testing staff.
That’s broadly the remit of the state, and we will have 50% of the vaccines available that come into the state, so 11,070 in that first week and then through that period until the doubling occurs, and that will be for that cohort.
The Commonwealth is responsible for workers and residents in aged care and residential disability care, both workers and residents as well.
Now, they will have the other 50% of those doses, as we work our way through, and Kath will have more to say as soon as we work our way through this.
People in these priority groups will be contacted directly before the first batch arrives to arrange their two appointments at least 21 days apart for the two doses that will be required to give them the best protection.
The priority groups will receive both their doses at Pfizer hubs which will be Tasmania’s three major hospitals.
That’s in the case of the Tasmanian cohort, the Commonwealth responsibility obviously for aged care and disability settings, they will have arrangements there with the settings themselves.
The first doses will be delivered at the Royal Hobart Hospital and through the Australian Government’s program re residential aged care facilities.
Pre-March, the program will move to the Launceston General Hospital and the North West Regional Hospital in Burnie.
We plan to have fully vaccinated Tasmania’s priority populations by early April, is our plan.
We’d hope Tasmanians will have many questions about the vaccine.
We’ll seek to provide answers to them all, as we build on the work of the Commonwealth’s public awareness campaign to ensure Tasmanians do have access at their fingertips when they need it in terms of the information they require.
At a state level, this will include advertising, a social media campaign, providing detailed answers to key questions on the coronavirus website and working with key stakeholders such as GPs, pharmacists, nurses and healthcare staff to ensure that they are well informed and able to impart the necessary information as well.
It also means working closer with Aboriginal groups, those in the multicultural community to ensure they are able to access information to meet the needs of their communities as well.
Before I ask Kathryn to update you on some of the work that’s going on to support the rollout program, it’s important for all Tasmanians to remember to keep practicing COVID-safe behaviours.
The vaccine is not a silver bullet, and it’s critical that we all continue to be COVID-safe.
You know, I said so many times, continue to socially distance, have good hand hygiene, cover your coughs and sneezes, if you’re sick get tested and, importantly, do not, do not go to work, do not go to a party, do not go to a function, do not go to a theatre, if you have any symptoms at all.
Let’s be sensible, let’s protect ourselves, protect our families and protect our communities.
I’ll hand over to Kath now and then, as I’ve said, after Kath’s presentation, and if there are any questions for Kath, then Dr Veitch will be available to take questions as well on the Public Health response before I take general questions.