Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for HEALTH, Mr ROCKLIFF
Your advocacy at National Cabinet with New South Wales Premier, Mr Perrottet, successfully removed any mandated COVID 19 isolation period. It was the last vestige of protection against widespread COVID 19 transmission and businesses applauded. In this latest Omicron wave, we have heard stories of a childcare worker at Devonport COVID-positive but asymptomatic, who was required to come back to work with unvaccinated babies and toddlers after 48 hours; and an older Metro bus driver concerned about his health forced to work amongst unmasked staff who have been called back to work, despite being COVID-positive, to drive buses full of vulnerable people. Do you agree that your total hands-off approach is contributing to the massive spike in COVID 19 infections and your decision is making Tasmania less safe?
Mr Speaker, I thank the member for her question. I know she has considerable interest in this matter. We have not always shared the same view when it comes to our COVID 19 response. What we have done, however, is work with Public Health every step of the way.
Ms O'Connor - No, you have ignored them.
Mr ROCKLIFF - Your reference to the New South Wales Premier and me, we are part of National Cabinet. Every premier, chief minister, including the Prime Minister, made those decisions around isolation.
Ms O'Connor - Yes, you are all complicit.
Mr ROCKLIFF - So, we will always, as we have consistently done, ensure that the health and safety of all Tasmanians remains our priority.
Ms O'Connor - That is untrue. You are misleading the House again.
Mr SPEAKER - Ms O'Connor, order. I warn all members not to interject. The Premier should be heard in silence.
Mr ROCKLIFF - Mr Speaker, the coronavirus incidents in Tasmania peaked in early April 2022, just over 2000 notifications per day, and notifications declined steadily after mid July 2022. Daily case numbers average, over a week, have been fewer than 200 since early September, and were around 100 until mid-October.
During the last two weeks, case numbers have increased, and this includes some outbreaks in aged care facilities and a slight rise in hospitalisations. Last week were reported a seven-day average of 318 cases per day statewide.
Our hospitals have escalation management plans in place to manage increases in COVID 19 levels. Our department's aged care emergency operations centre and Public Health hotline continue to work with and support aged care facilities in both prevention activities and responses to cases and outbreaks.
Omicron variants, including XXB, BQ1 and BA275 are becoming more common. I am advised the new variants may spread more readily but there is no clear evidence of greater severity at this stage.
Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Mr Speaker. I accept the Premier is answering this question, but I really ask you to draw your attention to the Metro bus driver and the childcare worker who were forced back into an unsafe workplace.
Mr SPEAKER - Thank you for resuming your seat. Premier, I guess relevance is the point of order, even though it was not stated. Premier, I remind you again of that.
Dr Woodruff - These are individual people.
Mr SPEAKER - Order.
Mr ROCKLIFF - I am aware of individuals. I am aware of the more than 200 people who have passed away as a result of COVID-19 in this state since March 2020. I am aware of the fact that today we all we will be speaking collectively on a condolence motion, which you will bring forward. I am very conscious of that and the decisions that we make when it comes to the pandemic, the restrictions applied and their consequences, and the restrictions being lifted and the consequences of that.
What we have always done is to ensure that we listen and take advice from Public Health. There has been national consistency most of the time, and in more recent times, more certainly with the Prime Minister Albanese, and every premier and chief minister across the country, in terms of the isolation requirements, which you referred to.
I am very mindful of individuals. I will not speak about the individuals who you have mentioned today. I am conscious of the impacts of the pandemic on a range of factors - people's personal circumstances, people's employment, people's business, and the disruption. Most importantly, our number one focus has been the health and safety of all Tasmanians. That is why we have been working very closely with Public Health every step of the way.