Audio of this morning’s media conference with Premier Peter Gutwein (0.00), Health Minister Sarah Courtney (2.45), Acting Director Public Health Scott McEwen (5.45) then questions.

A public health emergency has been declared in Tasmania.

This provides special powers for the Director of Public Health to deal with issues arising from coronavirus.

Dr Scott McEwen. Image TT.

“This is not a response to an imminent threat,” said Premier Peter Gutwein as he announced the decision. “What this is is a gradual and steady increase in the proportional way we are dealing with this.” He clarified that it is not an overall state of emergency.

“With the spread of COVID-19 increasing internationally and nationally, many imported cases have occurred from overseas into Australia and also into Tasmania,” said Acting Director of Public Health Dr Scott McEwen. “Strong powers are now needed to ensure the implementation of evidence-based public health measures in Tasmania that are proportionate and that are scalable in the months are ahead.”

He said the focus of the measures was keeping people safe and preventing spread of disease.

Powers include that of ordering a person into quarantine, banning people from particular areas or ordering them to leave particular areas, and broadly to take any action required to manage the threat of COVID-19 to Tasmania.

“This declaration should not alarm Tasmanians,” Dr McEwen said. “Our message from Public Health is to keep calm, continue to go to work and school if you are well, wash your hands regularly with soap and water, cover coughs and sneezes, practise social or physical distancing, keep informed as well regularly by accessing our Department of Health COVID-19 website, or if you have specific questions please call the Coronavirus Health Information Line.”

The Premier also announced possession of the new K-Block at Hobart Hospital and that steps were being taken to make it operational.

“We know that this extraordinary project, $689 million, has been an enormous amount of work, our largest piece of health infrastructure,” said Health Minister Sarah Courtney.

She said that significant work had been undertaken to resolve outstanding water and noise issues, and this work would continue during operational commissioning. “I have been advised that the risk of this is low and that they can be implemented with little or no disruption during the operational commissioning process.”

K-Block will be brought into operation ‘in a staged process’ over the next three months. The minister emphasised that the safety of patients and staff would be a priority. “Drinking water will be supplied for staff and workers.”

Courtney said that the operation of K-Block would ensure Tasmania had maximum capacity in the health system as it addressed the challenges and requirements of the COVID-19 threat.

Other Coronavirus News
  • no new confirmed cases in Tasmania
  • first stage of economic response released this afternoon
  • Qantas has slashed its international flights by 90% and domestic flights by 60%.
  • worldwide cases increased by 14 thousand to 167,500. Total mortalities are now at 6602 with 862 new deaths.

DOCTORS: Coronavirus Questions Answered.

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