Peter Gutwein

Premier of Tasmania

PRESS CONFERENCE - 16 DECEMBER 2021.

Premier Peter Gutwein

Good morning everyone.

Look, before I start, obviously, just make a point, I've got Dr Veitch with me, Kathryn Morgan-Wicks and Donna Adams who’ll each deal with aspects of matters that we're going to talk about today.

I do just want to say that I've been made aware of an incident, Hillcrest Primary School this morning, which involved a jumping castle, which unfortunately got away in high winds.

People have been, as I understand it, seriously injured, and we currently have all of the relevant emergency services on site.

I understand that there are serious injuries involved.

As further information comes to hand, we will obviously provide it, but as this involves a primary school, Hillcrest Primary School, you know, my thoughts are obviously with the people involved but, obviously, the parents of the children that have been injured and with the emergency services.

But as we receive further information on what I understand is a very serious matter, we'll provide that as the day progresses.

Now, and I think, you know, what I've just alluded to, I mean will put some context around what we're going to be discussing in a moment.

Obviously, our health and safety is the most important thing, and it's been a priority of this Government as we have moved forward.

And with our borders opening yesterday, it's more important than ever, that we don't lose sight of that.

Now, we've taken a cautious and sensible approach, and we put in place strong measures at our borders over the last 22 months and, importantly, as we move forward.

We’ve taken all of the necessary measures that we can to ensure that we are ready for the reopening yesterday and, importantly, for managing cases as they emerge.

Now, as I've said on many occasions, COVID will come, and it arrived yesterday.

I'm going to provide you with an overview, and Dr Veitch will provide further information when he's able to in a moment.

Yesterday morning, a man in his 20s arrived in Hobart from New South Wales on one of the early morning flights, QANTAS flight QF 1533.

He was an approved traveller, meeting the necessary vaccination and pre-testing requirements, having received a negative COVID test prior to his departure, as per the rules.

After arrival, he was notified by New South Wales Health to inform that he was a close contact of a case in New South Wales.

He went and took a test, and that result was returned last evening positive.

He is now isolating at a residence and is being managed by COVID at Home.

It's understandable though that some people will be concerned, and I can understand that.

However, what this demonstrates is that the system works.

And we’ll continue to follow the plan that we have laid out and, importantly, the advice of Public Health.

We followed that advice every step of the way, and we will continue to do that, and we will not divert from that.

Dr Veitch, as I've said, will provide what further information he is able to regarding the flight, exposure sites and close and casual contacts in a moment, but I'd make the point that this will be the first case, but not the last that we will receive and, importantly, in terms of the way that we manage these sites, as you'd be aware, there'll be a tile, a dashboard, going up daily, each day, to provide information as we move forward.

I have purposefully held off on that dashboard until 11am this morning, so that I could inform you myself of the circumstances yesterday.

Now, I just want to touch on the reopening yesterday.

I have to say, and I give a shout out to the media on this, I was very touched by the coverage that you ran last night in terms of the scenes at the airports, and I think if that provides any evidence at all of the reason why we need to continue to enable a moving forward, I think that the vision that we saw last night was proof positive of that.

To see families reunite and, you know, in some cases almost years apart, was very touching and, to be frank, I felt was a real demonstration of the need to ensure that we do what we can, as we move forward, but to keep Tasmanian safe, but to ensure that we continue to enable people to be reunited.

Yesterday, more than 7,000 people registered to travel to Tasmania.

From all the reports that I've received, our systems worked very well.

The vast majority of people who arrived observed the rules, with just two people being cautioned, after flying in without the necessary approvals, one person was returned back to Adelaide, the second person is in quarantine.

The Deputy State Controller will provide further detail on processes at the border yesterday.

Importantly, the throughput at our airports was, I think, very well managed.

You know, there was some delays, but I think it worked very smoothly.

Now, in terms of other matters relating to our management of the pandemic, last night, Public Health obviously made some changes to the travel directions.

They've been monitoring the situation closely in other states, and in response to the increase that we have seen, especially in New South Wales, and including from the Omicron variant, they've now added additional high-risk areas in New South Wales and Victoria.

A total of 29 Additional New South Wales Local Government Areas were declared high risk last night.

The area of Wollondilly has been downgraded though to low risk as part of that assessment.

What this means is that the Greater Sydney area is now all high risk, in addition to Central Coast, Newcastle, and a number of LGAs that surround Newcastle.

In Victoria, there has been a declaration of three new Local Government Areas, Maroondah, Nillumbik and Whitehorse, and this means that all of the Greater Melbourne area is now designated high risk, as well as Geelong.

The full list of high-risk areas is on the Coronavirus website.

Now, what this means, and I want to step through this carefully, firstly, to those who have already arrived in Tasmania from these additional high-risk areas that have just been declared, you're simply asked to monitor yourself for symptoms, and if you have even the mildest of symptoms, isolate and get a test.

Just follow the rules.

So, and I want to be very clear on this that anyone that's currently in the state who was already here, that should they have any symptoms at all, isolate and get a test.

Now, for those that arrived before Sunday, the 19th of December, you're asked to monitor yourself for symptoms and, likewise, get a test, if you have any symptoms get tested and isolate until you get the result.

Secondly, for those travellers, as I've said, that arrived before Sunday 19th of December who've already received approval, and there will be some people that will be arriving today that already had approval, but reside or have been to one of those newly designated high-risk areas, again, just follow the rules, if you've got symptoms, get a test.

Thirdly, any passenger with an already approved pass to enter from Sunday the 19th of December, and anyone who submits a new application from today onwards, to enter from a high-risk area after the declaration was made last night, you will be required to return a negative COVID Test 72 hours before they depart for Tasmania, in line with the current rules that are in place for high-risk areas.

And, again, if travellers arrive without evidence of a negative test, they'll be required to quarantine until they can provide evidence of that negative test.

And, finally, for Tasmanian residents returning who've spent time in any of the new high-risk areas, which predominately means the Greater Sydney area, that's the area that has largely been captured last night, but obviously, greater Melbourne is now included as well, but there's only a small number of LGAs that have been added, if you've been on a trip for seven days or less, you must get a COVID test within 24 hours of returning to the state, but you don't need to isolate, unless you have symptoms.

That's in line with the current rules, as they stand at the moment.

Now, I think in terms of the changed rules, I think they will be easy to understand, you know, simple, importantly, if you're coming to Tasmania and you're booking in today, and you'll be arriving here from Sunday the 19th, you must have a COVID test, pre-test before you come, if you've already got a pass and you are arriving before Sunday and you haven't got the time to have the 72 hour test, simply isolate if you have any symptoms and go and get a test.

And I think if people continue to follow those rules, we'll manage your way through this sensibly.

Now, importantly, in terms of vaccinations, as it stands today, 90.85% of Tasmanians over the age of 16 are fully vaccinated.

I'd expect that that's going to rise to 91%, if not later today, certainly by tomorrow.

96.4% have had at least one dose.

Very soon, we'll reach the 90% of all Tasmanians aged over 12.

As we’ve said, we expect that by the 17th.

At the moment 89.44%, and that’ll rise again today.

Aged over 12 and fully vaccinated, now 95.27% have had at least one dose.

I want to remind parents that bookings are now open for children aged 5 to 11 to get their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and, pleasingly, around 5,000 are already booked in for the first vaccination from the 10th of January, and I'd encourage parents to take those steps.

Importantly, bookings are now open for people eligible for the five-month booster shots.

As we previously discussed, the timeframe has been reduced from six months to five.

Boosters are available from state clinics and participating GPs and pharmacy clinics, and bookings are essential at the vaccination clinics.

Again, Kathryn Morgan-Wicks will provide some further detail there, if necessary.

Now, importantly, before I hand over to Dr Veitch, it is understandable that some people will feel a level of apprehension in terms of the fact that we have a case, but that case is being managed, our systems have worked and, importantly, as we move forward, I would encourage Tasmanians, importantly, to simply do the right thing, continue to follow the rules, do the small things, socially distance.

If you are indoors, and you can't appropriately socially distance, wear a mask, and I thank the media today for wearing a mask in this room.

Just simply do the sensible things, as we move forward.

As we see more cases arrive, you know, obviously we'll continue to manage them in the most appropriate and most sensible way, as we've done so right through this.

I'll hand over to Dr Veitch to say more.