Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 7 AUGUST 2020

Premier Peter Gutwein

With me this afternoon Dr Scott McKeown the Deputy Director of Public Health.

Now, as I’ve often said, our number one priority is the health and safety of Tasmanians, and I do want to once again recognise the very good work that Tasmanians have been doing themselves by taking responsibility, following the rules, ensuring that they’ve got good personal hygiene, socially distancing and, importantly, heeding the messages from Public Health and following those rules.

Testing is strong. Nearly 600 tests in the last 24 hours, 595, and in total almost 73,000 tests have been conducted.  We have no active cases of COVID-19 in our state, however, we remain prepared and we remain vigilant in the event that we do have a case.

The National Cabinet today, obviously we had a discussion about the circumstances in Victoria, and the only way to describe that is that it is serious. You know, they have a challenge in front of them. More than 7,500 active cases in the state. You know, a significant number of those are attached, unfortunately, to aged care facilities and aged care settings.

Our thoughts, as I’m sure all Tasmanians’ thoughts, are with Victoria at the moment as they work their way through what is a very challenging and difficult situation.

I do want to touch on National Aged Care Employee Day today and thank those who work in our aged care sectors for the work that they do.

Obviously, I’m certain that those in the aged care sector here in Tasmania would be paying very careful attention to what’s occurring in Victoria at the moment.

One of the things that I wanted to speak to Tasmanians today about, especially in terms of the aged care sector, is that here in Tasmania we are well prepared. Unfortunately, we had to deal with the North West outbreak and some challenges in terms of the aged care sector there, but it’s important that we learn lessons both within the state but also from what’s occurring in Victoria at the moment.

And the National Cabinet has agreed that a plan to take into account the lessons from Victoria will be prepared, an audit will be conducted across all of the states and territories, you know, and within weeks the expectation is that we will have a nationally agreed position across the country in terms of aged care.

One of the challenges in the aged care sector, and something that we’ve learned from Victoria, and not just in the aged care sector, but Victorians were turning up to work when they were unwell and, you know, that has been challenging for Victoria, and obviously it has assisted to embed the community transmission that they have across the state.

Importantly, we need to ensure that those that work in aged care settings, or in other settings, that if they are unwell, that they do not go to work and, importantly, that they get tested. Now, for many people this can be a financial challenge.

We have early on through this pandemic brought forward support in the form of a pandemic assistance grant for those that might need to self-isolate that have lower incomes or are not of means, and in terms of those on temporary visas we’ve made available an extension of that pandemic grant to them, and there have been a significant number of visa holders access that grant.

Today, what I want to announce is that we will be once again extending that grant, $250 per individual, up to a $1,000 per family to those casual workers or low-income Tasmanians that may not have sick pay available to them and may be reluctant to get a test.

It is important that if you are unwell that you do not go to work, that you get tested. And if you are in a position where you do not have access to paid sick leave, then we will extend that grant to you, so that you don’t have to suffer financially whilst you take the test and take some time off work.

Because what is really important here is there is no point turning up for a test because you feel unwell and then going and doing a shift. If you get tested, we want you to stay at home, self-isolate until you get the result.

And so we will extend that today to those casual employees or low-income Tasmanians that don’t have access to sick pay, so that they can be supported to get a test and to self-isolate whilst they wait for the result.

Importantly, the Prime Minister wrote to me, a letter was received yesterday, in terms of the $1,500 one-off payment that the Commonwealth has made available to Victoria in terms of pandemic leave.

The Victorian model is that the Commonwealth will provide payment for those people that are Australian citizens or permanent residents whilst they self-isolate. The Victorian Government will be paying for temporary visa holders.

I will be writing back to the Prime Minister and say that we will accept that offer as well, and that there will be then the Commonwealth’s $1,500 with paid pandemic leave available to support people, should they need to go and self-isolate, either through receiving a positive test or by being a close contact of somebody that has.

We want ensure that the lessons from Victoria are learned here.

I want to make it crystal clear to Tasmanians that if you’re unwell, don’t go to work. Doesn’t matter whether you work in an aged care setting, whether you’re working in a hotel, one of our hospitals, whether you’re a Member of Parliament or a carpenter, get tested and isolate for the period until you get the result.

And for those people that don’t necessarily have the means or the sick pay available to them, then we will support you to ensure that we can keep our workplaces safe, that we can keep our communities safe.

In terms of freight, as I mentioned earlier this week, the Stage 4 restrictions in Victoria are going to be very strict.

Last Friday, freight operators and essential workers coming from either Victoria or from hot spot areas have a mandatory test when they enter Tasmania if they haven’t, in terms of freight, if they haven’t been tested within the last seven days.

The National Cabinet today agreed to the national code, an across the country this will now be rolled out, so that in terms of the movement across borders, the code will align all states and territories, and for somebody that’s part of a freight route, they will be tested when they enter Tasmania, if they haven’t, as I indicated, had a test within the last seven days.

It will provide certainty right across the country, and I think it’s a good outcome from National Cabinet today.

We discussed with the Victorian Premier today the impact on distribution centres, and already today, I think earlier this morning, the Victorian Premier has announced that they will manage workforces across the supply chain in terms of distribution centres and major supermarkets rather than reducing by a third the workforce in those distribution centres.

In discussion with the Victorian Premier today, what was made that Victoria largely is a major distribution centre for Tasmania, and it’s important that we continue to ensure to have the freight and goods and services that we need, and he’s assured me that that will be the case.

We will continue to work closely together to make certain that Tasmania has the supplies that it needs.

And once again I would say to Tasmanians, there is no need to stock up at this time. What’s occurring in Victoria is occurring in Victoria. Freight lines, our freight routes, are operating and there is no shortage.

In terms of Tasmania more broadly, I just want to reiterate, as I have on many occasions in the last week in terms of circumstances with Victoria, we are not Victoria, but now is the time to maintain our vigilance. Now is the time not to be complacent.

There are lessons being learned out of Victoria, and we are fortunate that here in Tasmania we are COVID-free. You know, unfortunately, they are going through a very difficult time.

Ensure that you take responsibility, ensure that you manage your own personal hygiene, that you wash your hands regularly, that you socially distance and, importantly, follow the rules.

If we all take responsibility in this state for ourselves, for our communities, for our families, we will keep everyone safe. And that’s exactly what we want to do.

I’ll hand over to Dr McKeown now to make some comments.