The decision to keep Tasmania’s borders closed to all jurisdictions until at least August 31 has been broadly welcomed but the move has renewed Labor’s call for greater support for affected businesses.
Premier Peter Gutwein announced on Monday, given the uncertainty around the situation with coronavirus in Victoria, the state’s borders would not reopen to South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia as planned on Friday.
“Nor will we reopen to other parts of the country on August 14,” he said.
“We will review our circumstances on a weekly basis and I will provide weekly updates as we continue to monitor what is occurring in other states.”
Mr Gutwein said the decision to delay reopening was made after he spoke to the State Controller and the South Australian Premier on Sunday night and following a meeting of the state’s border committee on Monday.
He said the timing of August 31 coincided with the expiry of Tasmania’s emergency provisions.
“The next six weeks in Victoria will be critical for the country,” Mr Gutwein said.
“It simply is not the time for us to be reopening our borders. Now is the time we utilise our best asset and that is our moat.”
Mr Gutwein said no exemptions would be made for the AFL.
“No AFL games will be played in Tasmania in August,” he said.
Mr Gutwein said he did not expect there would be any disruption to Tasmania’s key freight lines as Victoria enters stage 4 restrictions.
“But we are working on contingencies should interruptions occur,” he said.
“There is no need for Tasmanians to consider any form of panic buying or queuing at our supermarkets – our supply lines remain strong.”
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Labor leader Rebecca White said keeping the borders closed was a sensible decision but noted it would be difficult for tourism-dependent businesses.
“The government needs to ensure those businesses receive continued support and those workers are going to need continued support because it is going to be a while before our borders are reopened,” Ms White said.
“It will have an impact on jobs and business confidence.”
She said the Spirit of Tasmania should reconsider taking bookings from September 1 given Victoria’s six-week state of disaster declared on Sunday extended beyond this date.
“It’s quite evident now the Spirit of Tasmania will need to reassess the bookings it has taken from September 1st because all of those travellers will need to travel through Victoria,” Ms White said.
Tourism Industry Council Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin said the government needed to be clear about Tasmania’s strategy going forward.
“If we are adopting a no-risk or eradication strategy for Tasmania, we should talk openly about it and the implications for our economy and community,” Mr Martin said.
“We were looking forward to a slow and steady reintroduction of interstate travel with other COVID-safe states and we still believe that’s the way to go when public health allows.”
Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said with COVID-19 ravaging Victoria and on the march again in New South Wales, the Premier had made the right call.
“Now isn’t the time to be taking any risks. There’s too much at stake,” Ms O’Connor said.
“Our collective responsibility as islanders is to keep each other safe.
“We’ve shown we can do that since the early days of lockdown and so many people have made such huge sacrifices – from grieving families, to tireless health care workers, people who’ve lost their jobs, and businesses on the brink.”
Tasmania remains coronavirus free.
More than 70,000 tests have conducted, with 800 people tested on Sunday.