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COVID 19 - Increasing Rates of Infection

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 30 May 2023

Tags: COVID-19


We are hearing from many across Health about doctors, nurses and paramedics dropping like flies with COVID-19. Last week's Australian surveillance data shows Tasmania has the highest rate of infections in the country. AMA president Dr John Saul said COVID 19 right now is causing havoc and chaos, with some health workers getting infected a third time, risking long term debilitating effects. Unlike you as Health minister, Dr Saul pleaded with Tasmanians to take more precautions and wear masks in crowded settings, but your Department's Public Health advice still only has the COVID risk for Tasmanians as 'low'. There are proven mitigations to reduce COVID in the community and save lives.

Where is the highly visible vaccination campaign? Where is the leadership on masks in hospitals, schools and on public transport? We know you have been more preoccupied with your stadium than on your Health responsibilities, but how can you justify refusing to help Tasmanians protect themselves?

Ms O'Connor - Shame.

Mr Ferguson - You're not an expert.

Ms O'Connor - We have an epidemiologist here who does happen to be an expert.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.



Mr Speaker, I thank the member, Dr Woodruff, for her question. The health and safety of all Tasmanians has been our number-one priority throughout the pandemic and continues to be. I continue to advocate for COVID safe behaviours -

Ms O'Connor - We haven't heard anything from you.

Mr SPEAKER - Leader of the Greens, order.

Mr ROCKLIFF - washing hands, all those COVID safe behaviours we have talked about since the start of the pandemic, still ever-present today. Personal responsibility is very important.

I am aware that, on 5 May 2023, the World Health Organisation declared that the status of COVID-19 as a global health emergency of international concern should in fact end. The WHO states that for more than a year the pandemic has been on a downward trend. However, COVID 19 remains a public threat and we are taking sensible steps to continue to protect Tasmanians. I am aware of Dr Saul's comments, a person I respect for his career in health. I listen to Dr Saul intently and meet with him regularly through the Australian Medical Association.

As our Government has throughout the pandemic, we have listened to and respected the advice of Public Health and the health professionals more broadly. I commend Dr Veitch and his team for their outstanding work and leadership throughout the pandemic.

It is not just our Government that has acknowledged the work of our Public Health team. AMA Tasmania president, Dr John Saul, recently said in the Mercury that Public Health had done a terrific job advising Tasmanians about COVID-19. We are regularly updating Tasmanians with weekly statistics that are available to all Tasmanians to view online.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Mr Speaker. Dr Woodruff asked a series of questions about vaccinations, about leadership and why the Public Health advice is that the risk is low.

Mr SPEAKER - There was not any mention of the standing order there. Only a repeat of the question. I allowed significant leniency in the preamble to the question. I will do the same for the Premier in his answer.

Mr ROCKLIFF - What is important is that we manage all respiratory illnesses as well, and that is why we have -


Greens members interjecting.

Mr SPEAKER - Order. If the members do not want to listen to the answer, I will ask you to leave the Chamber.

Mr ROCKLIFF - As you may be aware, Tasmania's plan for managing respiratory infections during winter 2023 was launched recently. That strategy includes all respiratory illnesses, but particularly influenza and COVID-19. The strategy aims to ensure the state is prepared to manage respiratory infections during winter, with a focus on health system preparedness, infection prevention, detection and early treatment to minimise health harms and health system strain.

The strategy is accompanied by a comprehensive communication campaign encouraging Tasmanians to take steps to reduce the risk of winter illnesses, which I believe is part of your question. Implementation of the strategy includes the following key elements: supporting health system readiness to respond to demand through enhanced statewide coordination, escalation planning and increased bed capacity where possible; influenzas and COVID-19 vaccination coverage, testing and surveillance; working with priority groups such as aged care, disability care, education and early childhood to optimise vaccination coverage and to plan for and manage outbreaks of infections; and supporting Tasmanians to access testing, treatment and care by maintaining hospital capacity and providing community-based care alternatives such as our highly successful COVID@homeplus program.