Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 5 MAY 2020

I want to start today where I started on so many other occasions. It is important that people follow the rules, that you stay home and that you work hard to save lives.

There is no doubt that we are getting into a better place at the moment, but we need to work harder to ensure that we continue to follow the rules. They are there to ensure that we stop the virus from travelling and, importantly, the only way that the virus travels is with people. And so it’s important that we continue to follow the rules. We mustn’t become complacent.

We’ve had 165 cases recovered, and we still have 43 active cases around the State. It’s important that until a vaccine is found that we continue to follow the rules of social distancing. That is just so important. I cannot stress that enough.

Importantly, we’re putting safeguards in place. More testing, more tracing. Again, I would encourage people to download the COVID Safe app.  Across the country, that will be one of the most useful tools to assist with tracking and tracing the virus when it emerges.

Importantly, an enhanced rapid response will also be initiated to ensure that when we need to we can stand up a team to ensure that we can track and trace the virus quickly.

And the COVID safety plans for businesses. And I would encourage businesses that are looking at their operations, if they haven’t done so, to go to the Worksafe Tas website. There is a wealth of information already on that site in terms of the national principles and through links to safe working FAQs.  For every industry sector there is advice available.

But we will be working over the next two weeks to ensure that in the Tasmanian context there are regulations and, importantly, a baseline that all businesses will need to meet, but then industry sectors will be able to take steps themselves, and we’ll work with each industry sector to ensure that they have absolute clarity but, importantly, their customers and their staff have clarity as well.

I do want to say that I understand that there is a level of frustration within the Tasmanian community in terms of the very strict rules that we have in place. I want to thank the Tasmanian community for following these rules to this point, and in the main, most people have done the right thing. But it’s important that with no new cases over the last four days that people don’t become complacent.

We are in a good place, but we need to get to a better place, and it’s important that we continue to follow the rules. They are there because they will ensure that we keep people safe, importantly, we keep individuals, families, their loved ones and community safe, if we continue to follow the rules.

As I said yesterday, National Cabinet is on today. We’ll be receiving advice from the HPPC in terms of the steps that the country will be taking and, importantly, as I said on Friday, after National Cabinet has finalised its position, I’ll be outlining the pathway back for Tasmania.

I do want to say, and I’ll continue to reiterate this, we have an older and more vulnerable population. It’s why we made the decision to go early on cruise ships and on our borders and, importantly, it must stay at the forefront of our thinking as we step ourselves out of this.

I know that this will be frustrating for some businesses and some industry sectors, but what we cannot do is risk the opportunity of a second wave. We’ve seen that occur in other countries, and it has been devastating. In fact, some countries had second and third waves. It’s important that now that we are on a pathway to where numbers are low, the incidence of the virus is low, it’s important that we do not open ourselves up to that risk of a second wave, and that we step back into this sensibly and responsibly and, importantly, cautiously.

I note that the racing industry’s had a bit to say today, and I can understand their frustration, I can. But the reason that the racing industry was closed was to ensure that we didn’t have people come into a major population centre out of regional Tasmania and then going back to regional Tasmania and taking the virus with them. I know it’s been frustrating, but we put in place a very solid package to support the industry.

From the point of view of the industry, they have been requesting a date. On Friday, we will announce a date in terms of when the resumption of racing can start. That will provide them clarity, they’ll be able to get their animals race-ready and it will provide them with a date that they can work towards. But, importantly, social distancing will need to continue. Importantly, we will need to be sensible in terms of the movements that we have around the state and that we continue to protect those older and more vulnerable populations that we have.

In terms of National Cabinet today, it’s going to be an important National Cabinet. We’ll have a conversation about the Trans-Tasman bubble, and the Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern will join us. I want to say on the Trans-Tasman bubble, I think that that is something that may benefit this State, and already I’ve had meetings with Tourism Tasmania. I’ve met with Hobart Airport to discuss where this opportunity might work for Tasmania.

But what is important with this, and I would again, as I think the New Zealand Prime Minister did so in the last 24 hours, is caution Tasmanians that we need to step into this carefully. The one thing that we can’t do is have a situation where the virus moves between the two countries, where either New Zealanders bring the virus to this country or to Tasmania or, conversely, we take it to New Zealand.

They are at a slightly different level to where we are at and, obviously, they are working through their restrictions at the moment, coming from a full shutdown to basically where now they have landed at a similar position to ourselves, albeit only a couple of weeks into that. And we’ll need to work through carefully and cautiously through that.

But, from the point of view of the concept, I think it does have the opportunity for some positives for Tasmania, but we need to work our way through that and, as always, have an eye to ensuring that whatever we do we keep Tasmanians safe. That has to be our number one aim, our number one goal, and it will continue to be so.

We’ll also be talking with National Cabinet about some of the return to work measures, the COVID safety plans and the work that has been going on at a national level.

And, as I’ve said, as we step our way through this, we will ensure that Tasmanian businesses have the necessary information that they require to understand what a COVID safety plan looks like, what the minimum requirements are and, importantly, there are some industry sectors, the THA for example, which has already started to develop a plan to ensure that they can provide an even higher level of safety, should their venues begin to open over time to enable a level of confidence to be there for both their staff and their customers.

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