The Tasmanian Premier has refuted claims an “illegal dinner party” is linked to a coronavirus cluster in the state, dismissing the report as a “rumour”.
Two hospitals in the northwest of the state, Burnie’s North West Regional Hospital and the North West Private Hospital, have been forced to close and around 5000 people have been instructed to go into quarantine following the emergence of a cluster in that region.
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Doctor Brendan Murphy spoke to a New Zealand parliamentary committee this morning where he suggested health workers were responsible for a cluster in Tasmania.
“We thought we were doing really well in the last week and then we had a cluster of 49 cases in a hospital in Tasmania just over the weekend. Most of them went to an illegal dinner party of medical workers, we think,” Dr Murphy said during the call.
Mr Gutwein said he spoke with Dr Murphy following the emergence of the “rumour”.
“To be frank, Brendan was commenting on a rumour,” he said.
“At this stage, our contact tracing has not identified a dinner party of healthcare workers.
“However, I accept that this is a serious allegation and it’s something that needs to be followed up.
“We will retrace our steps, but importantly I have asked that Tasmania Police investigate this matter and that will be started today.”
Dr Murphy’s office released a statement later in the day to clarify the situation.
“This morning in discussions with a New Zealand Parliamentary Committee, I referred to suggestion that a dinner party may have been the source of some of the transmission in the North West Tasmania cluster of cases.” the statement read.
“Whilst this possibility had previously been mentioned to me following initial investigations, I am now informed that the contact tracing has not confirmed that such a dinner party occurred.”
Mr Gutwein said Dr Murphy told him in a phone call today that the Chief Medical Officer had not heard advice from the Director of Public Health about an alleged dinner party.
“Obviously people are concerned by this,” the premier said.
“This has got a life of its own and we’ve got to get to the bottom of it.
“If the law has been transgressed then I imagine charges could be laid.”
Because of the spike in new cases being linked to health workers in the northwest of Tasmania, two hospitals have been closed, and specialised cleaning will get underway to get them cleared to re-open soon.
Up to 5000 people who may have come in contact with those positive cases since March 27 have been instructed to quarantine themselves, and any other patients who recently visited those hospitals have been told by state health authorities to “be very vigilant” of their symptoms, and are encouraged to be tested.
The Ruby Princess cruise ship is still being investigating by the state’s health department as a possible source of the outbreak in the northwest.
The premier did not rule out a stricter lockdown of the entire northwest region of the state if cases continued to spread and health advice suggested that action.
Tasmania currently has a total of 150 COVID-19 cases, with five deaths from the coronavirus.
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