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COVID-19 - Restrictions

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Tags: COVID-19, Health

Question over COVID-19 - Restrictions: Cassy O'Connor MP, 17 March 2020



As you know, at this extraordinarily and difficult and unprecedented time, Tasmanians are looking to all of us, but particularly to you, for leadership. In a number of ways I respect that you have demonstrated that, but health professionals are imploring you to do more. Medical professionals are becoming increasingly alarmed about how infectious and lethal COVID-19 is as a threat to the Tasmanian population.

In an open letter to your Health minister, more than 140 doctors have warned of impending disaster implored your Government to do more before there is rapid community transmission. They want schools to be closed and incoming travel to be severely restricted for international and interstate travellers. Why are you yet to place restrictions on interstate travellers, including mandatory self-isolation? Given there is now widespread community transmission along the eastern seaboard, will you use the powers granted under the public health emergency that you declared today to close schools, pubs, gyms and other social venues in line with the recommendations of the open letter from health professionals? As you know, the advice from the Commonwealth has been patchy and variable at best. Why are you waiting to put more severe restrictions in place in order to save lives?



Madam Speaker, I thank the Leader of the Greens for that question and acknowledge that we have taken a leadership position in this. I acknowledge the discussions we have been able to have privately - and I would make that available to any member of the House should they wish to pick up the phone and have a conversation with me about these matters. They are important and we are in very difficult circumstances so I am very happy to discuss these matters with you.

Regarding the steps we have been taking, our advice is still that the risk to Tasmanians remains low and we continue to take all precautionary steps. As of today, we have elevated our position in terms of the declaration of a public health emergency, which will provide the Director of Public Health with powers to ensure that self-isolation or quarantine can be mandated, and to direct a person to go to a certain place or to do a certain thing, or to have control over a vehicle. The powers are wide.

As to the process we are going through, we are acting on advice every step of the way. I believe members are aware that this evening there will be another meeting of the National Cabinet which was established last week and had its first meeting on Sunday. Today in Canberra those matters of social distancing are being considered by the heads of public health from around the country with the Chief Medical Officer. They are looking at where it is appropriate for gatherings to occur and where there should be more stringent social distancing measures. That advice will be provided this evening. I am certain I will have more to say in the next 24 hours about that.

Regarding the broader matter of border control, I spent some time on that in the last question from Ms White. As to whether we strengthen the provisions around our own borders, those matters are under active consideration but I have no advice yet to take that step. I am looking to inform myself of what the impact of that would be both in a public health case and also in an economic case and, importantly, in terms of the supplies we would require into Tasmania and how those essential services would be managed.

I want to be clear that I am going into this with my eyes wide open. I am taking advice and am prepared to act on that advice. I demonstrated that on Sunday when we moved on cruise ships. In terms of any advice we receive that changes the current position the Government has, I will act on that in a heartbeat.