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Southern Tasmania and Hobart entered a snap three-day lockdown from 6pm on Friday after a COVID-positive man who had travelled from NSW escaped quarantine and spent time in the community.
The 31-year-old man, a traveller arriving in Tasmania from NSW via Melbourne, was sent to Hobart’s hotel quarantine system upon arrival in the state on Monday.
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
Authorities realised he was not in his room after a welfare check early on Tuesday and found him at an address in Bridgewater in Hobart’s northern suburbs. He later tested positive to the virus.
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said the state was at a “crucial” point in the vaccination roll-out and could not risk a large coronavirus outbreak taking hold, necessitating the lockdown.
Hobart was the only Australian capital city not have been forced in locked down since the nationwide lockdown in March last year.
Thirteen local government areas will be subjected to the restrictions, with only a few reasons to leave home: shopping for necessary supplies, attending medical appointments, exercise, caring commitments or permitted work.
Those in the state’s south will only be able to travel up to 5km from their homes, with face masks required to be worn indoors and outdoors. The lockdown is expected to end on Monday.
“With a plan to be open before Christmas and to hit those vaccination rates, we need to ensure that we can continue with that,” Mr Gutwein said.
“One of the things that we do not want to be in this state is either Sydney or Melbourne who acted too late in both instances when dealing with [the] Delta [strain of COVID-19].”
Indoor and outdoor gatherings are not allowed in the state, with no weddings except those given an exemption for compassionate reasons. Funerals will be able to have a maximum of 10 visitors.
The local government areas going into lockdown in Tasmania from 6pm on Friday include Brighton Council, Central Highlands Council, Clarence City Council, Derwent Valley Council, Glamorgan-Spring Bay Council, Glenorchy City Council, Hobart City Council, Huon Valley Council, Kingborough Council, Sorrel Council, Southern Midlands Council and the Tasman Council.
Public Health director Mark Veitch said he was disappointed to have to implement the new restrictions, but acknowledged the potential exposures had occurred in a “community that is relatively less vaccinated than most”.
Health authorities in Tasmania have now identified 39 primary close contacts of the NSW man, including friends and fellow travellers, with one close contact of the man arrested and fined after he was caught breaking home quarantine.
Mr Gutwein said the man who escaped hotel quarantine had not been forthcoming with information about his movements, which included visiting a Woolworths supermarket in Bridgewater.
“Unfortunately, it took two days to verify that he was at Woolworths and there is growing concern now that he has been to several touch points in the community,” Mr Gutwein said.
“We have a circumstance now where we have a positive Delta case in the south of the state with contacts, we have contact tracking and tracing, but unfortunately, the information that we have around those people has been difficult to gauge.
Tasmanians who are currently in NSW, ACT and Victoria will not be able to travel to Southern Tasmania during the lockdown, and those travelling to Tasmania from other states must follow the restrictions in place.
“To non-Tasmanians that wish to travel to the state, if you’re not a resident, we encourage you to reconsider your travel to southern Tasmania, whilst the lockdown is on,” Mr Gutwein said.
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