Australia’s Chief Medical Officer says a coronavirus cluster in Tasmania’s north-west was likely sparked by a passenger from the Ruby Princess cruise ship.
- More than half of Tasmania’s coronavirus cases are in the state’s north-west
- The region is subject to additional retail restrictions that are due to be lifted Sunday but may be extended
- The state’s Health Department is yet to finalise its investigation into the origins of the cluster
Tasmania has 205 confirmed coronavirus cases, 131 of which are in the north-west, and health authorities confirmed late on Thursday night that no new cases were recorded in the 24 hours since 6:00pm on Wednesday night.
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy previously came under fire for his comments that north-west healthcare workers had attended an “illegal dinner party” together, a claim rebuked by Tasmania’s Premier as a “rumour”.
Speaking on Thursday to a Senate committee examining Australia’s COVID-19 response, Professor Murphy said the Tasmanian cluster was “a very good example of just how infectious this virus is”.
“Tasmanian Health have been investigating it, obviously, and I haven’t seen the final report, but it seems likely that healthcare workers picked up the virus probably from a Ruby Princess passenger who was being cared for,” he said.
“It just shows once you have someone who is infected who might not know they’re infected, they can spread it to a lot of other people before anyone knows.”
Tasmania’s Director of Public Health Dr Mark Veitch has previously said two Ruby Princess passengers who died at the North West Regional Hospital were considered potential sources of the outbreak.
However, he said investigators would wait for the results of genetic testing of the virus strain involved in the outbreak before making their conclusions.
An interim report on the outbreak is expected to be handed to the Tasmanian Government within days.
More than 10 per cent of Australia’s coronavirus cases have been linked to the Ruby Princess, which docked in Sydney on March 19.
North-west restrictions may be extended
Meanwhile, the Tasmanian Government has warned north-west residents the additional coronavirus restrictions placed on the area may not be lifted as soon as hoped.
The increased restrictions, which saw non-essential retailers such as Harvey Norman, Kmart and Target shut down, are due to expire on Sunday evening.
Tasmania COVID-19 snapshot
- Confirmed cases: 212
- Deaths: 11, 10 in north-west
What do I do if I think I have coronavirus?
If you think you might have COVID-19 because you feel unwell with a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath and have travelled recently or had contact with a confirmed case, phone your GP or the Tasmanian Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.
Testing criteria are different for north-west residents.
Need an interpreter?
Phone the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450 and tell them your language.
For more information and factsheets:
Visit the Tasmanian Government’s coronavirus page here.
Premier Peter Gutwein said he wanted north-west residents to be ready for the possibility they may be extended.
“[Lifting restrictions] may not occur for another week,” he said.
“No final decision has been made yet, but I think it’s important that people start thinking about what their circumstances will be should those restrictions not be lifted.
“I specifically want north-west parents to begin thinking about how they might manage their children next week if they are at home … because if we aren’t able [to lift restrictions] obviously schools may not be able to open across the north-west as previously planned,” he said.
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Mr Gutwein said the “plan had worked so far, however four additional cases [confirmed last night] is four additional positive tests too many”.
“We do need to ensure that we work through this sensibly and not lift those restrictions too early,” he said.
“However later today I’ll be taking advice from public health and we’ll be working through the scenarios planning in terms of the way forward and a final view will be formed later this afternoon based on that advice.”
An announcement on those restrictions is expected tomorrow.
Southern and northern testing to be expanded
The Premier also urged Tasmanians in the north and the south of the state to remain vigilant.
“The response to date in terms of our actions has meant that we haven’t seen cases [in the north and south] for some time, but it’s important that people continue to follow the rules,” he said.
“This is not a game, this is serious, at the end of the day this virus kills people.”
It has been a week since the last case in the south and the north has not seen a case since April 4.
Despite this, Health Minister Sarah Courtney said there were plans to expand testing criteria in the north and the south.
“We are looking to further expand our testing criteria for those regions in coming days to people in those areas that area also experiencing respiratory symptoms,” she said.
“We’ll be writing to GPs today around the expanded guidelines so if you are in the north or south, please be aware of your symptoms.”
Of Tasmania’s 205 coronavirus cases, 91 have recovered.