Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Health spokesperson
With Covid case numbers growing and new variants now identified in Tasmania, we are entering a concerning new phase of the pandemic. Without any Covid isolation or public indoor protections required, and with full vaccination levels low, Tasmanians are highly exposed to a new wave of infections.
It is critical the Minister for Health, Jeremy Rockliff, acts swiftly to reintroduce mask protections and scale-up public education on airborne risks to limit the spread of Covid infections in Tasmanians.
The Department of Health have confirmed two new variants – XBB and BQ1 – are circulating in the community, in addition to the Omicron BA5 and BA2 strains. The latest weekly Covid statistics show a 27% increase in case numbers from the previous week, which mirrors the trend of most other states.
This is a very troubling, but predicted, new phase of the Covid pandemic. For months, modelling undertaken by other states, and independent health experts, have warned of a likely new wave of infections. New strains of the virus, waning vaccine immunity, and the ending of mandatory isolation for positive cases and protections against transmission in public spaces are combining to substantially increase Covid health risks.
In the face of these concerning developments, there is a staggering complacency and non-response from Premier Rockliff and his government. Despite the expected increase in cases – and associated hospitalisations and deaths – the Premier is refusing to act to protect the Tasmanian community or to bolster the overwhelmed health system.
The government's mismanagement of Covid, by refusing to mandate simple protections to damp down the spread of new variants in the community, increases the risk of Covid’s serious and deadly short and long-term health outcomes. People who are immune-compromised, older or living with a disability are especially vulnerable, but the Premier is deaf to their concerns.
The Liberal Government has also stopped sharing crucial information with the community that people need to keep themselves safe. The Department has cut daily Covid statistics reports and only does them weekly, and the more comprehensive Covid Surveillance Report, which was weekly now appears to be absent altogether. This is an inexcusable lack of transparency
The Greens strongly urge Premier Rockliff to reconsider his management of Covid, and to take urgent steps to limit the spread of this highly infectious and dangerous virus in our community.