An ‘illegal dinner party’ is believed to have led to the shutdown a third of Tasmania after a coronavirus outbreak among health workers.
Two hospitals in Burnie, northwest Tasmania, were closed on Monday with five deaths and 78 cases, including 45 medics, linked to the area.
More than 5,000 people including 1,200 hospital staff and their households were ordered to quarantine for 14 days while the hospitals are disinfected.
A third of Tasmania’s land mass was also placed under stronger lockdown with non-essential businesses including Kmart, Bunnings, and thousands of shops closed.
Pictured: Tasmania’s coronavirus outbreak on the north-west coast has led to the shut down of almost half the state
The dinner party is the latest in a series of blunders that is claimed to have led to the outbreak – starting with passengers arriving from the Ruby Princess cruise ship
Three passengers died from coronavirus at one of the two hospitals after they were allowed to disembark without health checks and fly home Tasmania.
Dr Brendan Murphy was briefing New Zealand politicians via video link on Tuesday when he let the dinner party revelation slip.
‘We thought we were doing really well in the last week,’ he told the Epidemic Response Committee.
‘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.’
The North West Regional Hospital and North West Private Hospital in Burnie shut on Monday morning so they could be deep-cleaned by specialist teams.
Patients from the two hospitals have been moved to Mersey Community Hospital at Latrobe.
About 1,200 healthcare staff have been ordered to quarantine for two weeks, along with their households, placing up to 5,000 people in isolation.
But Premier Peter Gutwein on Tuesday said he could not confirm the source of the outbreak.
‘I spoke to Brendan Murphy, a short while ago. To be frank, Brendan was commenting on a rumour,’ he told a press conference.
‘At this stage… Our contact tracing has not identified a dinner party of health workers.
Dr Brendan Murphy (pictured on Sunday) was appearing on Tuesday before the Epidemic Response Committee – which has been suspended under New Zealand ‘s lockdown – when he let the revelation slip
‘We thought we were doing really well in the last week,’ he told the committee via video link. ‘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’
The outbreak could be linked to the ill-fated Ruby Princess cruise ship (pictured at Port Kembla on Sunday), after three passengers who boarded the vessel died from coronavirus at hospitals in the north-west
‘However, I accept that this is a serious allegation, and it’s something that needs to be followed up, and so we will retrace our steps.’
‘I’ve asked the Tasmania Police to investigate this matter, and that will be started today. We need to get on top of this.’
Premier Gutwein said they were forced to call in the Australian Defence Force to cope with the outbreak in the north-west.
‘It’s also why, unfortunately, again, we had to implement increased restrictions on business across the north-west coast,’ he said.
‘We want to see less contact between people and we need to ensure that you follow the rules, that you apply social distancing, that you do everything that you possibly can to follow the rules and save lives.
‘We’ve requested that the ADF come into Tasmania and assist us with the outbreak in the north-west.’
BUSINESS RESTRICTIONS FOR NORTH-WEST TASMANIA
Business restrictions are in place from midnight on 12 April 2020 for a period of 14 days and include the closure of most retail businesses except for those providing essential services.
Essential services include: medical services, pharmacies, supermarkets, green grocers, food take-away, service/petrol stations, bakeries, laundromats and dry cleaners, newsagents, rural services and general stores, bottle shops, IT repairs, car repairs (but new and used car sales are closed), veterinary services, animal and pet food supplies and banks.
Trade supply stores open to trade customers only.
Source: Tasmanian Government
The Tasmanian government announced 14 days of ‘tough restrictions’ for the north-west of the state from Sunday. Most retail businesses – including Kmart and Big W – have been forced to shut their doors during the two-week period
Trade supply stores are only open to tradespeople. Pictured: Shoppers at Bunnings
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 6,394
New South Wales: 2,870
South Australia: 431
Western Australia: 523
Australian Capital Territory: 103
Northern Territory: 28
TOTAL CASES: 6,394
The Tasmanian government announced 14 days of ‘tough restrictions’ for the north-west of the state from Sunday.
Most retail businesses – including Kmart and Big W – have been forced to shut their doors during the two-week period.
Essential services such as pharmacies, supermarkets, food take-away, service/petrol stations and medical services remain open.
Trade supply stores are only open to tradespeople.
There were six cases statewide on Monday, all in the northwest, bringing the island’s total to 150.
Virus testing is also being increased in the outbreak region.
Five elderly people have died from the virus in Tasmania, four of them at the North West Regional Hospital.
A man, aged in his 80s, died at North West Regional Hospital on Tuesday April 7. He was a passenger on the Ruby Princess cruise ship, which docked in Sydney Harbour on March 19.
Two other Ruby Princess passengers, both aged over 80, died at the same hospital on March 30 and March 31.
There were 6,494 confirmed cases of coronavirus across the country on Tuesday morning