‘We’ll get to the bottom of it’: Claims an ‘illegal dinner party’ held by hospital workers sparked massive COVID-19 outbreak to be probed by police – despite top doctor’s backflip on claims
- Professor Brendan Murphy said 50 staff attended an ‘illegal party’ at weekend
- The chief medial officer spoke to Epidemic Response Committee on Tuesday
- He said a cluster of 49 cases at a Tasmanian hospital came after ‘illegal’ dinner
- He later walked back his comments and said no evidence party caused outbreak
- However, the party claim is being investigated by state police
- Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID
Tasmania’s Premier Peter Gutwein has lashed keyboard-warrior criticism of health staff in the state’s northwest, where a COVID-19 outbreak has shut two hospitals.
Mr Gutwein on Wednesday announced a ‘testing blitz’ in the region and urged anyone with flu or virus symptoms to contact the public health hotline or a GP.
He also pledged to get to the bottom of the outbreak, which Australia’s chief medical officer had previously linked to a dinner party of medical workers.
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein (pictured) said he would ‘get to the bottom’ of the claims that an ‘illegal dinner party’ between medical workers sparked a mass COVID-19 outbreak
Professor Brendan Murphy told a New Zealand parliamentary committee nearly 50 staff attended an ‘illegal party’ at the weekend.
He later walked back his comments after Mr Gutwein said contact tracing had not found evidence of the party.
However, the party claim is being investigated by state police.
Mr Gutwein delivered a blunt message to people criticising hospital staff on Facebook and urged northwest community members to work together.
‘Anyone that’s thinking about lining up a health care worker, taking a pot shot at them, should just draw breath and accept there is a process underway,’ he said on Wednesday.
‘We will work through it. We will get to the bottom of it, and then we will explain fully what has happened.’
Of Tasmania’s 169 coronavirus cases, more than 80 are linked to the outbreak at the North West Regional Hospital and North West Private Hospital in Burnie.
The dinner party was allegedly attended by 50 guests who were medical staff from two northern Tasmanian hospitals. Pictured: The North West Private Hospital
Mr Gutwein warned keyboard warriors that they should avoid targeting health care workers from the two hospitals. Pictured: The North West Regional Hospital
More than 45 health workers have tested positive to the deadly virus, with a spike in cases over the Easter holidays.
Four new cases were confirmed in Tasmania on Wednesday, all in the northwest.
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 6,449
New South Wales: 2,886
South Australia: 433
Western Australia: 532
Australian Capital Territory: 103
Northern Territory: 28
TOTAL CASES: 6,449
The state’s sixth death, a 91-year-old woman at the Mersey Community Hospital at Latrobe in the northwest, was linked to the outbreak.
The state government will begin a ‘testing blitz’ in the region and has brought in additional laboratory technology to boost capacity.
‘If you think it’s just a sore throat, think about your community,’ Health Minister Sarah Courtney said, noting that up to 500 people per day can be tested.
‘Make sure if you’re experiencing symptoms, call the public health hotline or your GP.’
Testing has been offered to staff of the two hospitals, which are both being deep cleaned by specialist teams.
It is hoped the facilities’ emergency department will reopen on Thursday.
Medicos from the Australian Defence Force and Australian Medical Assistance Teams, usually reserved for national disaster relief, will help get services back online.
The hospital closures have forced 1200 staff and their families into quarantine, about 5000 people in total.
The number of positive coronavirus cases in Australia as of Wednesday April 15