Coronavirus update | Thursday 27 May 2021

Last Updated: 10 Jun 2021 3:56pm

We'll begin with an update on the situation in Victoria.

There has been another 11 local COVID-19 cases, bringing the cluster in Melbourne’s North to 26 cases, and as you’d be aware, Victoria has just announced that all of Victoria will enter into a seven-day Stage 3 lockdown from midnight tonight.

In response, we’ll be declaring all of Victoria a high-risk location from 2pm today.

This means that after 2pm this afternoon you can’t travel to Tasmania, if you spent time in Victoria in the previous 14 days, unless you are approved as an essential traveller by the Deputy State Controller.

The current Tas e-travel pass will be cancelled at 2pm today and anyone wishing to enter will need to reapply through the G2G system and seek an exemption.

Tasmanian residents who are in Victoria at the moment can apply for essential travel status to return home, but if approved, they’ll be required to quarantine at a suitable premises on arrival for 14 days.

If they don’t have a suitable premises, they will be required to quarantine in Government-designated accommodation at their own cost.

Anyone who arrives before the declaration takes affect at 2pm today, will be allowed to enter Tasmania, as long as they’ve not been in the Whittlesea Local Government area or any of the declared high-risk premises in Victoria that have been visited by COVID-19 cases.

I remind anyone arriving before 2pm, and anyone who has come to Tasmania and is here now having been in the low-risk areas of Victoria since 6 May, how important it is that they monitor themselves for CVOID-19 symptoms.

If you have any symptoms at all, even mild, isolate immediately and book a test with the Public Health hotline and, importantly, keep checking the list for high-risk premises at www.coronavirus.tas.gov.au, as more sites, I expect, will be added as cases are discovered and contact tracing in Victoria continues.

If you’ve spent time in any of the sites at the specified date and times, these are the high-risk premises, self-isolate immediately and call the Public Health hotline for further advice.

Now, obviously, the situation in Victoria is generating increased calls to the Public Health hotline, so please be patient.

At the moment, I understand, the wait time’s only around 5-6 minutes.

We will and have stood up the full capacity of those centres at the moment, but we will take steps, if need be, to put on surge staff, if and when we require them.

And at the moment, obviously, the hotline staff are working hard providing information, booking tests and vaccinations as well as answer questions for a large number of people.

So, please be patient, and if you can’t hold or wait for the period that you’re being asked to wait for, please call back at the earliest opportunity, but remain self-isolating until then.

Now, as I said yesterday, the situation in Victoria is a reminder that COVID will remain a part of our world for the foreseeable future and, again, it stresses the importance of maintaining COVID-safe hygiene practices and, importantly, to not hesitate, as the Secretary of Health said yesterday, don’t wait, vaccinate.

Get in touch when it’s your turn and get the jab.

Now, please, if you have symptoms, get tested, stay home if you are sick, wash and sanitise your hands, maintain physical distancing when possible when you are out and check in and, importantly, check in at venues and follow the current restrictions, using the appropriate app.

Are there any questions?

So, Tasmanians returning home after 2pm will be able to isolate in their own homes, potentially?

They will need to apply and get an exemption. As long if they've been to a high-risk premises they won't be allowed to return, because they'll be asked, they will be at the moment of being isolated in Victoria. But if they've been in any of the lower risk areas and not to a high-risk premises then they will be allowed back in under an exemption, and isolated in their own home if that is a suitable premises. If not, they'll be in government accommodation.

What's it going to mean for people who are potentially coming over in the Spirit of Tasmania?

Well, in terms of the same rules will apply, and obviously for those that … in terms of the Spirit, we've been here before. If you are transiting through Victoria from southern New South Wales or out of South Australia, again, you can travel directly to the Spirit terminal, stopping for fuel. But you shouldn't spend time doing any other activity; just travel straight to the port and board as you would normally.

Does this designation have a timeline or is it ongoing?

Well, in terms, we will follow the seven-day period that Victoria have outlined, and obviously we will provide updates as we work our way through this. Yeah, one would hope that in Victoria that they can get on top of the contact tracing. My understanding is that they are attempting to contact trace more than 10,000 people at the moment, so that is a significant task that they have in front of them, but one would hope that over the seven days that they can get on top of this and then we can return to normal post that. But obviously, we will be guided by public health advice.

Will we be offering resources to them for the contact tracing if required?

If required, if they ask. Look, there's a standing offer amongst the states and territories at the moment that if another state requires additional resources, then obviously we will provide what we can at that particular time.

Considering there's two hours’ notice, if people are booked in for flights that are, you know, potentially delayed or arriving in 2.30/3 o'clock, obviously they're going to need to go into quarantine or will be turned around. Will there be leeway in terms of total quarantine fees?

No, they won't. The rules are that if you arrive after 2pm and if you don't have an exemption, then you would be placed in the government quarantine.

Do you have any numbers on Tasmanians who may be looking to return that have been to high-risk or low-risk locations?

Look, we don't, and obviously now that this change has occurred in Victoria, I’m certain that we will get a number of calls in the Tasmanian Hotline as a result. But again, in terms of a Tasmanian that's currently in Victoria at the moment that has been to a high-risk premises at the time that specified, they should be self-isolating now in Victoria.

So, what are the latest numbers on the people who have contacted the Health Department about being at a high-risk area?

Well look, as I said yesterday, there were around 40, but at this stage I don't have an update on that, and obviously, we've having calls coming in over the last hour as well since the announcement has been made by Victoria. But we can provide an update.

Just to clarify, those people coming in on flights at 3 and 4 o'clock today, will they have to go straight into quarantine, or how quick is that turnaround to apply for those exemptions?

Anybody coming in after 2pm will need to go into quarantine, and a Tasmanian returning after 2pm, if they are provided with an exemption to return, they will need to quarantine at a suitable premises or they would be placed in the government accommodation.

So those exemptions are the turnaround for those being approved is quite quick, is it?

It'll be as quick as we can do it, yes.

Would there be a case of, you know, if that wasn't turned around in the two hours, a person being put into, say, a hotel quarantine while waiting for that to go through or will they then have to go back and come back?

Look, I’m not going to deal with hypotheticals, but again, you know, we will be fair and we will be reasonable, but the rules as I’ve just outlined.

In terms of the AFL, are we likely to see additional games played down here instead of in Victoria or more teams based down here?

Look, Gil McLachlan reached out to me yesterday, I’ve had … and we touched base last night by text. I’ve spoken with him this morning. Now, obviously it is a moving feast for the AFL at the moment. Again, I’d make the point, and I’ve been clear right through this, that we would not make any special arrangements or circumstances, they would be treated the same as everybody else. But obviously, if they had teams that were outside of Victoria at the moment that wanted to be domiciled here that could enter the state – bearing in mind that it's only Victoria that the borders are closed to – then obviously we'd have those discussions.

So, Tasmania could be an AFL hub?

Look, I certainly wouldn't rule it out.

So, those discussions are underway at the moment?

Well, as I’ve said, I had a conversation with Mr McLachlan this morning.

Do you think Tasmania could host the Hawks-Suns game this weekend?

Again, look, in terms of, depending on the circumstance, there will be no special deals put in place, and my understanding is that those arrangements have already been dealt with.

Was that part of your discussion with Gil McLachlan yesterday, having that game here this weekend?

No, it wasn't.

And so, what you were saying with the Spirit of Tasmania people…

And if I could make the point, the games, in terms of no games being here this weekend, it was a matter of broadcasting. Now, that was the conversation I had with Gil, and in terms of us making an offer for teams that could come into Tasmania that weren't needing to quarantine, we certainly said that we would look to facilitate that. But again, there were other matters that needed to be taken into account and that wasn't possible.

When are you speaking to him again and when will a decision potentially be made on that?

Well, I think what you will see is as the situation rolls out in Victoria, and as more advice is provided as to the length of the lockdown in terms of Victoria, then I think there'll be more clarity for all of us to consider what we do moving forward.

On clarity, as you were saying before, with people being able to transit through Victoria to the Spirit of Tasmania, will the same be for, like, airports in Victoria? They'll be able to fly in and then fly out, as long as they don't leave?

Look, in terms of Tullamarine, that has always remained a transit hub right through this process from day one, and that will remain.

People arriving on in caravans, campervans aboard the Spirit, are they able to isolate in their caravan or they have to go into hotel accommodation?

Again, it'll be into hotel accommodation, but again I’d make this point that if they've been to a high-risk premises they won't be coming in and after 2pm today, Victoria is declared as a high-risk premises so there should be nobody coming into Victoria into Tasmania from Victoria with a caravan without an exemption.

There's a website for people to put in their details if they want to get a call if there's any leftover vaccine. We understand that's for healthcare workers, but it looks like anyone can apply. Can you clarify tat?

Look, I can in fact, and the Secretary of Health might provide some further detail if I don't provide all that you need. But my understanding is that at the end of a given day, there might be, for example, additional doses, that a vial has been opened and some have up to 10 doses, and we might have only used four, for example. And so the arrangements are such that potentially anybody that's closer to the hospital, like the police or WorkSafe Tasmania, for example, can apply to be on the list, and they can come in and utilise that remaining dose so that we don't waste anything.

So, it's not just for generally for members of the public, or?

It's only available I think across the public sector, is that right? And we'll come back to that last, with the Secretary of Health, in quite a bit more detail.

Sure. A number of aged care homes in Victoria are yet to receive their first dose of the vaccine, according to the Federal Minister. Do we have aged care homes in Tasmania in a similar situation?

My understanding is that all of our aged care residents have been vaccinated. I’ll ask the Secretary of Health just to deal with that matter in terms of the additional.

And just on that last point in relation to aged care homes, it was our understanding a couple of weeks ago that they were just working through the final arrangements for the final residents. In terms of workers, we are continuing to work to make sure that the aged care workers are coming into our state clinics, and that's the offer that we made to the Commonwealth to assist.

So, as far as you're aware, all our aged care homes in Tasmania, all the residents have received that vaccine?

Yeah certainly, the information that was reported through to me was that we were expecting those to be completed before the end of May. So, that's my understanding, yes.

And so how many workers are still, require that, are still to have that vaccine? What’s the sort of numbers we’re looking at?

So, I’m confident that we've outbound called, or attempted to contact, all our workers across our aged care homes. Certainly, there are, you know, some that we obviously have to do call backs, or we've had difficulty reaching. We're also trying the method of actually going in and placing vaccination staff into the aged care homes, to encourage the workers to also book and vaccinate. It's just one of those difficult things where they're obviously rostered on, they prefer to have the vaccination actually come to them, so we're working with them to make sure that we can get as many workers captured as possible.

And just if you could talk more about the website for people to put in their details if they want to get a call about extra vaccines being available?

So, similar to other states, and I think, for example, New South Wales have had a register where you can register interest if you are close to a particular Pfizer clinic location. And it's Pfizer that it's the main concern around trying to avoid wastage, because once a nurse at the end of the day draws up that last vial and has to distribute doses, if we have had some no-shows or people that have booked in and have been sick, for example, on the day, we want to make sure that those last doses are used.

So, we have had an internal register that has been running. So, you need to be actually located close to the hospital. People have been registering, but it's no guarantee that you'll actually receive a vaccination, it's just a last-resort list. But certainly, we're happy to have a look at that list and see if it's of benefit to open up more broadly now to the public. But my main concern is to make sure that our over 70s, our over 50s, our under 50s that have an underlying medical condition, are actually getting that vaccination first and we're using every attempt to bring them in, but if there's a wastage concern we will look to an emergency list.

So, can anyone register for that emergency list, or?

So, at the moment it is actually on a website. It's the way that it's been managed, for example, within health staff or other agency staff that are close to the hospital, and I think that many of you have actually had a look at that link to have a look at it. If we're going to make it more public, that's where I’d look to a public campaign to call on particular age groups to register, but you have to be close to the clinic because it's that end-of-day vial that we're talking about.

In terms of that online vaccine booking system, can anyone between 16 and 49 now book to have the vaccine?

So, the 16 to 49-year-olds with an underlying medical condition is what we're actually targeting in terms of that booking online booking system. You know, I am aware that there are some that have actually used the online booking system to get through at the moment, and particularly where there's pockets of vaccine hesitancy, we're not turning anyone away in terms of our clinic. So really, and as the Premier has just mentioned and given our Victorian situation, it is ‘do not wait vaccinate’. Come forward, make the booking, and we'll make sure that our clinics are open for you.

So, just to clarify, it doesn't matter if you don't have an underlying condition, anyone at any age can now receive the vaccine in Tasmania?

No, so we do have the phases that we are encouraging because we do have to prioritise our vaccines, and particularly in the 16 to 49 age group to an underlying medical condition. But I am aware of some that have turned up at clinics and received a vaccination.

So, they won't be knocked back? Because at the moment quite a few people are booking online and it's all good to go, they won't be turned away when they go to get their jab?

Where there are bookings available on a particular day and we have vaccine to use, we will use them for the people that come to the clinic.

With the current situation in Victoria, have you received more calls to the Health Hotline today?

Certainly, we've seen a pleasing uptick in terms of the number of people that are calling to book a vaccination, and also encourage people to go online and look for a clinic near you in relation to vaccination. And we are looking at opening up further vaccination clinics to respond to that demand.

When and where do you think you'll be opening those clinics?

So, we are opening a further clinic at Smithton next week, and we're monitoring demand across our existing clinics and opening up extended hours or further clinics at those locations if we are seeing that vaccination demand come through.

How long do you see this situation with Victoria – Tasmania and Victoria – going forward?

So, as the Premier has announced, we are basically mirroring in terms of the arrangements that Victoria have announced with a seven-day lockdown. Health and our, you know, Public Health team who are working really round the clock on this, and speaking to our Victorian counterparts and to all of the states and territories looking at their arrangements, so it's a day-to-day hour-to-hour watching of this situation, and to make sure that we're taking the appropriate measures in Tasmania to respond.

How quick could the process be for a Tasmanian returning home to get an exemption?

So, our systems are quite, you know, stable and rigorous, and we've managed several lockdowns now over the last few months, and have had to really turn around nearly on an hour's notice in terms of the applications. Certainly from a health side, you know I’m also concerned to make sure that if I have a doctor or a nurse, or other health professional, or even someone that's supporting equipment in hospitals, that they're also able to have their applications turned around and can enter the state. And that goes for other essential travellers, but this is something we've been doing for quite a while. They're very experienced and we've got all of the resources on to manage it.

Can I just seek clarity on one thing? In terms of Tasmanians who've returned from Victoria since May 6, if they've only been to low-risk areas will they still have to self-isolate from 2pm?

For those who have returned from low-risk areas, they'll need to monitor their symptoms on an ongoing basis. But obviously if  – and I’d make this point very clearly – anyone in the state that has returned from Victoria that has been to a high-risk premises should, and this is a high-risk premises at the time that the positive COVID case was there, they should self-isolate immediately and contact the Public Health Hotline. For those that are in the state that have returned since the 6th, monitor themselves for symptoms and, if necessary, self-isolate and contact Public Health.

Thank you.