First thing I’d like to say today, is to point out NSW. When you look at what’s occurring in that state, just how serious this disease is that we’re tackling.
Our thoughts are with those that live in NSW. I know there are many Tasmanians that have friends and families there as well. That’s a very challenging situation stretching into its third week, and looking like it might go longer in terms of the lockdown that they have. There is a salient message there for all of us – this is serious, and important, and we take a very vigilant and cautious approach.
Yesterday we announced that a person who previously worked in Launceston at the LGH had tested positive in the UK to COVID after testing negative in Tasmania before they left – and I want to stress that point, that they tested negative in Tasmania before they left.
Public Health is taking a very proactive and cautious approach and has listed potential exposure sites. However, I want to stress that this is highly precautionary approach. Potential exposure sites, as well as times and dates, are now listed on the Coronavirus website, and you can go directly to that website.
As we’ve said, there’s currently no evidence that this person contracted COVID-19 whilst they were in Tasmania, or that they were infectious while they were in Tasmania, however Public Health is taking a precautionary approach to ensure that there is no risk to the Tasmanian community, and we understand that a number of businesses are being impacted, and their staff as well.
I want to again, very clearly, say to Tasmanians, that this is not a time for alarm, but it is a very clear reminder of the challenges that we face both here and across the country. And if we look at what’s occuring in NSW – we are in a good place, and it’s important that we stay in that place. The steps that we’re taking are designed to ensure that we have a very good understanding if we have any COVID here in Tasmania.
The precautiounary measures we are taking are having, and will have, a financial impact on some businesses. The Government will be working with these businesses to ensure that they are supported, and the Small Business Minister will take make contact with all impacted businesses on Monday to ensure that any assistance that’s necessary is provided. And we know that for some businesses, this weekend – especially in Launceston with the football on – would have been a busy period for them. In the main, they will be closed and their staff will be getting tests at the moment.
For staff, we will also make assistance available to them. The employees will have available to them the Pandemic Assistance Grants. They are up to $250 for an employee that has had to self-isolate and get a test as a result of steps we are taking. It will be a one-off payment of $250 and will be available to any employee who has been unable to work as a result of self-isolating while they get a test as a result of the measures we are taking.
We know that for many employees that might work casual hours, that this might be more than they would normally earn on a Saturday, but we understand that a number of employees have other jobs as well, and this might last across the weekend as we wait for a test.
For those employees, I encourage them to contact Public Health through the hotline, and provide their details, and we will work through them early next week and make sure those payments will be made. In terms of the businesses, we will be in touch on Monday, we will have a discussion with them about what the impact has been on their trade over the weekend, noting that once their staff and themselves if they were in the businesses at the times that are noted that contact was made with their business – then they can open up once they have those negative tests are back, and I would hope that most of those businesses can open back up after the weekend.
It’s very encouraging that we’ve seen an uplift in testing rates, and we have our call centre, which is well-manned as well, and we’ve seen reasonable traffic through the call centre as people have been making contact.
I’ve also been in touch personally with a number of the businesses that have been affected. The sense that I’ve got from those contacts is that businesses understand that they need to take these steps to keep everyone safe, and they are willing to do so, and I thank them for that. I know that for some, they closed completely this morning.
And I’ve also had a chat with the owner of the Maydena business, and she expressed to me some frustrations about when she was contacted, and I’d make this point, that Public Health has been doing its very best to get in touch with every business as quickly as they possibly could to minimise the disruption but at the end of the day, we’ll work with businesses early in the week to ensure we mitigate any impacts that have occurred.
(more to come)