News Coronavirus Tasmania to exit lockdown, premier defends call

Tasmania to exit lockdown, premier defends call

Tasmania border
Tasmania has reported a second day of increasing new COVID-19 infections. Photo: AAP
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Tasmania’s premier insists a three-day lockdown of the state’s south was warranted, as it wraps up on time following no evidence of onward transmission from an infected hotel quarantine escapee.

Peter Gutwein has confirmed the three-day lockdown of Hobart and southern Tasmania will end at 6pm on Monday after the state reported no new cases from more than 1400 tests.

But masks will remain mandatory indoors and outdoors for those 12 and over until at least 6pm on Friday, along with rules for aged care facilities and hospitals.

“We are snapping back to where we were apart from those restrictions,” Mr Gutwein told reporters on Monday.

The island state’s south region was plunged into a 72-hour stint of stay-at-home restrictions on Friday evening after an infected NSW man escaped from the Hobart Travelodge and spent about 18 hours at large.

The 31-year-old, who flew from Melbourne to Hobart last week without a valid border pass and was ordered into quarantine, was unco-operative with contact tracers and the uncertainty surrounding his movements led to Mr Gutwein enacting the snap lockdown.

Despite no cases being linked to contacts of the infected man, including about 120 from a Woolworths supermarket, the premier was adamant the lockdown was necessary.

“Experience in other jurisdictions has indicated that with Delta, you can never be too early, you can only be too late,” he told reporters.

Tasmania’s Public Health Director Mark Veitch said health authorities had no choice but to act.

“There was substantial risk out there,” he said.

“We knew that this person who was in the infectious phase of his illness was out in the community for 18 hours, had been to places that we had were only just identifying and could, plausibly even now, have been somewhere that we haven’t identified.

“That’s a high-risk situation to Tasmania and we were moving in mixing like it was 1999 really. We had to put measures in place that prevented the risk of transmission.”

Fifteen people who had “prolonged” contact with the man have tested negative.

They are other close contacts could still turn positive while serving their 14-day quarantine period but Dr Veitch said the worst of the risk had passed, albeit not completely.

“There remains a small risk that we haven’t actually got absolutely everybody identified who had some kind of contact with this case. We have to be very vigilant for the next week,” he said.

Additional security has been stationed at the state’s domestic quarantine hotels as well as police at the site quarantining close contacts.

CCTV cameras have been installed, and a broader review of the system is planned for later this week.

But Mr Gutwein said the system ultimately relied on people doing the “right thing”.

“These are hotels, they are not correctional facilities, they are not prisons.”

But Labor said the premier owed Tasmanians answers.

“The premier needs to show Tasmanians that important lessons have been learned and, as he said, it cannot be allowed to happen again,” opposition spokeswoman Michelle O’Byrne said.