Dr WOODRUFF question to PREMIER, Mr GUTWEIN
The open letter from the Tasmanian GPs expresses their dismay at the disconnect between the actions that have been taken in Tasmania so far to prevent the spread of the virus and what the global evidence shows needs to be done. On current growth rates, the now 400 cases today in Australia of COVID-19 would become 10 000 by 4 April, in just a few weeks' time. New South Wales has admitted they have exponential growth in their state and that is apparent from the data in Victoria as well. We have precious little time to act and isolate people in Tasmania who have come from mainland states as well as travelled from overseas, and Tasmanians who have returned to the state, and to close schools to reduce the spread of the silent infection which exists in Tasmania.
I listened to your answers to earlier questions about why you would not have 14 days self-isolation for everyone entering the state by sea and air. With respect, I think the reasons you gave for not doing that were trivial and could easily be resolved by prescribed exemptions for trade and requiring people such as the chief health officer to have a teleconference instead of flying interstate. These are pretty obvious responses. The longer you delay, the longer schools will have to remain closed. Fundamentally, these measures are inevitable. You have already said they are inevitable at some point. You are delaying and every day we delay increases the risk to Tasmanians. Will you use those two measures that have been strongly asked for by the medical community to protect Tasmanians today?
Madam Speaker, I thank Dr Woodruff, the member for Franklin, for that question and her interest in this matter. As I have said, we are acting on advice. We are taking advice from the country's health professionals. Regarding the Australian Health Principal Protection Committee, which is meeting today and has been meeting on a daily basis, the best advice I have to hand at the moment is that schools should still continue, obviously with appropriate social distancing measures, but should that change we are well prepared to move to a distance learning environment to support our students. I make the point, however, that once the schools close they will be closed for a very long time.
Dr Woodruff - I agree that is the case. We want to reduce that risk.
Mr GUTWEIN - I have been clear that we are acting on advice on that measure. Concerning other border controls, I have been clear in this place this morning that I am taking advice on that. There are challenges that need to be managed, understood and considered -
Ms O'Connor - Trivial ones.
Madam SPEAKER - Order, please.
Mr GUTWEIN - None of these matters are trivial.
Dr Woodruff - Relative to the cost of not acting, they are.
Madam SPEAKER - Order, please.
Mr GUTWEIN - We will take advice from experts. As I have said, our number one priority is the health, wellbeing and safety of Tasmanians. Importantly, we want to ensure they can have a job under these circumstances as well.
As of Sunday night, the country has put in place stricter international border controls, which we have supported. We have also taken a further step whereby anybody who has travelled from overseas, whether they be a visitor to this country, this state, or a Tasmanian returning home, when they arrive at one of our entry ports, then they must fill out a Tasmanian access card. They will be provided with information of how best to manage and to understand the onset of the disease should it occur to them; importantly, where to call and who to contact to receive assistance. My understanding is that each and every one of those people will receive a text on a daily basis reminding them of the need for self-quarantine but also inquiring about their health and what other services they may need to support them.
I provided this response to the first question from the Leader of the Opposition - I am taking advice on this. If the advice is to implement stronger border controls then in a heartbeat, I will do that. I am relying on the experts to provide that advice. There is another meeting of the National Cabinet tonight and we will again discuss these matters. If the advice changes, I will act in a heartbeat.