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Adjournment - Tasmanian Access Card COVID-19

Parliamentary Activity - Wednesday, 18 March 2020, Rosalie Woodruff MP


Tasmanian Access Card COVID-19: Rosalie Woodruff, 18 March, 2020

 

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - In Question Time this morning we asked the Premier about the travel arrival cards and the lack of resourcing and follow-up that is occurring at the airport. The Premier indicated he was concerned to get the answers to the questions we asked, and he was going to come back in today and report. Well here we are at the end of the day and we have not heard anything from the Premier on this matter.

We are very concerned that this is a first-line prevention measure which must be undertaken properly. It must be stringent, it must be resourced, and people must be tracked. We have always said it is not good enough to just focus on the people who are arriving into Tasmania from overseas. It must be every person who comes to Tasmania by sea or air, because we know now that mainland states are especially the ones that people most travel to from Tasmania.

New South Wales and Victoria are recording exponential growth in cases. There were 50 cases in New South Wales in the last 24 hours. When people arrive in Tasmania, if they have come in from those other states or if they are Tasmanians travelling back, there is no requirement for them to do anything. The truth is that they have been in communities, like people who are arriving from overseas, where there is exponential growth in COVID-19 cases. We have to protect Tasmanians from community transmission of this disease.

The Premier was to provide us with some information about biosecurity resourcing and the tracking that will happen to people who self-isolate. We know people are making voluntary identification of whether they have been overseas as they are disembarking. That is not good enough, absolutely not, because we have heard reports of people pushing past with duty free goods in their hands; clearly they have been overseas and they are just ignoring that direction.

There can be all the heavy penalties in the world, but if there is no enforcement and no follow-up it means nothing. This is such a serious frontline issue that we expect the Premier to use every resource he can muster for the good of Tasmanians, to make sure every person who gets off the plane must fill in information and provide details to the public health authorities so that they can be tracked. That means doing the job properly, not just relying on people to do what they say they will do, but checking them with the sort of technology that is being used overseas that every Tasmanian has available - which is a phone and a GPS tracker.

Tasmanians might feel uncomfortable about this, but people will feel far more uncomfortable - far, far worse - if there are people who are severely ill and dying in our hospitals. That can be avoided, and we must do everything we can to avoid that. It is quite an easy matter to have an automated text message that a person who is self-isolating simply replies to. It will give a GPS record of where they are, and make it clear that they are where they are meant to be.

If there are serious penalties, and if the Premier is serious about using the penalties available, then he has to actually make them work. In order to do that, public health staff and biosecurity staff must be getting resourced so that there is the amount of staff and the machinery available for them to do this job.

Before I finish, I want to add to what the Leader of the Greens has just said about schools. It is very uncomfortable for me, as an epidemiologist, to repeatedly hear what we are hearing at the federal government level - that the advice is not good enough to close schools at the moment.

That is not consistent with what is happening everywhere else in the world. The sort of advice being provided does not come with expertise and expert evidence behind it. It is an assertion that that is the best advice. In fact, every single country in the European Union has closed its schools. Not the United Kingdom, but they are not in the European Union anymore. Almost all of the Middle East have closed theirs; most of Asia has closed their schools. The reason they are doing this is because it is effective.

The Minister for Education and Training should be directing our schools to be closed this week. We have the advantage of time. We can change that decision in two months time if the Tasmanian data show us that it is no longer needed.

It is not a commitment for six months; it is a commitment for a probable two-month period. Over Easter we have already have that time. We have the time, and we need to take advantage of it. We have teachers today with an intolerable burden. We have parents with an intolerably difficult decision to make about the health and wellbeing of their child. These are decisions that should be made through leadership on a statewide level for the whole of society, so we can all pull together and make sure we avoid needless suffering for vulnerable people.