HOBART, Tasmania - The Tasmanian government's announcement on Saturday that it will reopen its interstate and international borders from mid-December will relieve pressure on hospitality operators, particularly the accommodation sector.
Most of the state's visitors come from Victoria and New South Wales, particularly from Melbourne and Sydney.
Health unions however are concerned about the strain on the state's health system, particularly hospitals, as a result of an inevitable introduction and acceleration of Covid-19 cases that the reopenings will bring.
"Members are very concerned in relation to this decision to open up when the health system has not got the capacity to do it, and they're very frustrated that the government knew that this would be coming along and we don't have the capacity, both in the ICU, throughout the emergency department and throughout the entire health system to deal with this," Health and Community Services Union assistant secretary Robbie Moore said Saturday.
"Fundamentally what we need is more staff and the only way to get more staff to the state is to offer decent wages and conditions."
"At the moment we have the lowest salaries in the country when it comes to allied health professionals and workers, so we need to see pay equity for Tasmanian public health sector workers, so we have the capacity to deal with these oncoming COVID cases.
Tasmania set a high level for reopenings, indicating in early October that its borders would only open up once a 90 percent vaccination rate had been achieved in the state. Despite early skepticism, it appears the objective will be achieved.
"Under our Reconnecting Tasmania, safe border reopening plan, Tasmania's borders will reopen to all mainland jurisdictions on December 15, 2021," Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said Saturday.
"By this date, I am confident that everyone above the age of 12 will have had the opportunity to be vaccinated and that we will have achieved a 90 percent vaccination rate for 12-year-olds and above."
"We will not turn back from this date and so my message to every eligible Tasmanian over the age of 12 is if you're not vaccinated, don't wait until December 14 - make an appointment today and get it done as soon as you can."
Tasmania has already achieved 70 percent fully vaccinated target for 16 years and over, and is expected to achieve 80 percent early next month.
The reopenings will come despite hundreds and thousands of new Covid-19 cases being announced daily by New South Wales and Victoria.
"From the 15th of December, anyone will be able to enter Tasmania from anywhere within Australia, subject to being fully vaccinated (12 years and over), and having a negative test result within 72 hours of travel," Gutwein's statement said.
"Importantly, based on Tasmanian specific modelling undertaken by Professor Raina MacIntyre from the Kirby Institute, and based on our strong vaccination rates, we are confident that our State can open while ensuring we have the health and safety nets in place to keep on top of COVID, especially during the reopening phases."
"To be clear, the modelling does take into account the retention of some important hygiene measures and COVID safeguards, particularly across the first few months, including gathering restrictions, density limits, and mask-wearing in high-risk indoor settings," the premier said.
"Importantly, over the past 12 months our hospital system has been building capacity, with more than 655 additional FTEs working in our health system today than there was 12 months ago, and more dedicated beds for surge capacity."