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Ministerial Statement - Coronavirus Update

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Tags: COVID-19, Health

Coronavirus Update: Cassy O'Connor, 3 March, 2020


Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I thank the Premier for updating the House and the people of Tasmania on this Government's response to the coronavirus which, as we know, is now a global pandemic. It is on every continent.

Since the first reports of the coronavirus came out of Wuhan and Hubei province in China, it has been quite difficult to have a full understanding of what this viral pneumonia disease is, what its mortality rates are, and its impact on people's lives. For anyone who is interested in the life of Chinese people, which I very much am, some of the images that have been coming out of China, particularly of Hubei province, are deeply confronting. The response to the initial outbreak was for the government of China to basically close off Hubei province. Wuhan on the Yangtze River is the capital. Hubei is a province that had about 55 million people living inside it. For anyone in this House who wants to have some understanding of the impact of that on the people in Hubei province, I highly recommend watching Four Corners from this past Monday night. It provided a really moving and deep insight into the impact of this virus on the lives of everyday people in China.

The abject fear that people are experiencing, the lack of information, the lack of certainty over the data that was being provided by government. All of this has become part of daily life for people, not now just in Hubei province, but all across China.

As we know, this virus has spread globally, and at its current rate of spread, and infection, it is a virus that replicates about every six to seven days. It doubles in the number of infections about every six to seven days. We are talking here about a highly infectious virus, and that makes the messages that are being promulgated by our health experts, in the Premier's statement, all the more important. The basic hygiene of disease prevention generally.

At times like this it is very important that we do not collapse into hysteria and we do not buy all the hype, that we do be rational and seek to have the best available information. The information that is coming out of health authorities in Australia about how to avoid infection is really important.

I also thank deeply the frontline staff who are working in our health services and in our hospitals. Some of the most amazing stories of courage that came out of Hubei were from the first responders in Wuhan's primary major hospital. The speed of the response, the fact that doctors and nurses working at the front line in Wuhan because there was a shortage of medical professionals, a shortage of diagnostic kits and a shortage of space to treat people. Many of those medical professionals were working around the clock without breaks.

Of course, it is people in the medical profession at the front line of combating this pandemic who are in many ways the most at risk. I am enormously thankful for the dedication and the courage of our frontline staff here and wherever medical professionals are working in the world.

I also acknowledge the impacts of the travel ban on our trade exposed industries. It has been a really hard four to six weeks for many of our exporters. I reiterate the statement I made previously about the importance of Tasmanians supporting our exporters and our primary producers and also our tourism sector however they can.

There is no question there has been an impact on the tourism sector here, although I do not know that it is as significant as it has been in some mainland markets.

On behalf of the Tasmanian Greens, my very best wishes to the gentleman who is in the Launceston General Hospital recovering from the virus. As members in this place, I commit us to working constructively on our response to this issue and being responsible members of parliament when we are talking about this now global pandemic.