Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Health spokesperson
Premier Peter Gutwein has said on numerous occasions he will not be pressured to open the borders, but as 15th December approaches he is abandoning some of his previous public health commitments. With approximately one quarter of all Tasmanians not expected to be fully vaccinated by then, there is concern and confusion in the community about the government’s mixed messages and safeguards.
The Premier has previously assured Tasmanians all 12 to 15 year olds would be fully vaccinated by the time borders open. But with four weeks to go, vaccine data indicate we’ll only be able to double-dose vaccinate 67% of these vulnerable young people. New plans to boost vaccination rates for teenagers now are coming far too late to change that situation.
By our calculations, in mid-December nearly a quarter of all Tasmanians will not be fully vaccinated. That group includes all children under 12, and represents a significant potential for the coronavirus delta variant to circulate in the community.
The Government has not given any indication it is prioritising the vaccination of school-aged children when the expected announcement to green-light vaccines for 5-11 year olds is given by the Commonwealth in January.
The Premier has today walked back from yesterday’s statement about only requiring “spot checks” of travellers’ vaccination status upon arrival from 15th December, but numerous questions remain about his government’s commitment and ability to properly resource Biosecurity to keep pace with the torrent of incoming visitors.
Waning immunity, and the potential for infection and transmission of the virus among fully vaccinated people, are other important considerations not addressed. Nor has how the hospital system will cope in the event of a large outbreak – despite constant questions being raised by healthcare workers, the Greens, and others.
To this point in the pandemic, the Premier has been guided by the public health advice in making decisions to keep Tasmanians safe. Despite assurances otherwise, it seems the federal push to open borders for Christmas is overriding some of his previously stated public health commitments, and Tasmanians are rightly asking why.
The Premier has a duty to outline his plans for protecting children and vulnerable people, to resource the public health safety measures needed to prevent an epidemic of COVID-19 occurring in Tasmania, and to increase investment in health system staffing prior to 15 December.