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Tasmania cautious on travel under virus plan

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Peter Gutwein says Tasmania won't automatically open its border when vaccination hits 80 per cent. Photo: TND
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Tasmanian Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein has indicated the island state will maintain its hard border approach if necessary, counter to the federal government’s coronavirus reopening plan.

Mr Gutwein described the plan, in which restrictions are eased when vaccination rates hit 70 and 80 per cent, as sensible based on modelling and advice.

However, he said Tasmania would not “cede our responsibilities to the Commonwealth or to anyone else” during the pandemic response.

“It is no one’s intention that what we’re going to do simply to at 80 per cent is open up to cross-border travel … and allow plane loads of people with COVID to fly in to Tasmania,” he told an estimates hearing on Monday.

Tasmania was the first Australian jurisdiction to shut out others at the beginning of the pandemic and has recorded just one case this year.

“Public health advice has kept us safe and if [public health director] Dr [Mark] Veitch … says there are parts of the country that we don’t want to accept people from, then we won’t accept people,” Mr Gutwein said.

Mr Gutwein expects 80 per cent of Tasmanians over 16 to be vaccinated in November.

WA Premier Mark McGowan and Queensland’s Annastacia Palaszczuk have been adamant in keeping to strict border controls until they are satisfied the virus is under control.

“Even at 80 per cent I would have a very clear expectation that if a state has a stay-at-home order in place and significant restrictions in an area, then we will follow that,” Mr Gutwein said

“We will limit travel to Tasmania from those areas. The plan is quite specific in that it still allows, post 80 per cent, to lock down in certain circumstances.”

Federal Employment Minister Stuart Robert recently described Canberra’s plan as a guide.

Mr Gutwein is open to implementing vaccine passports but only when all Tasmanians have had the opportunity to be vaccinated.

He said vaccinating the last 20 per cent of the population would be the most difficult, partly due to hesitancy.

-AAP