Tasmania calls in ADF medics as coronavirus tally hits 150


Tasmania has confirmed six new cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours in the disease hotspot of the state’s north-west, bringing the state tally to 150.

Key points:

  • Six new cases of the disease have been found in Tasmania’s north-west
  • The North West Regional Hospital and North West Private Hospital closed on Monday morning
  • Emergency medical teams will be sent to Burnie to provide cover when the NWRH reopens

Since 6:00pm on Easter Sunday, authorities said the new cases were found in the north-west of the state, which is currently under increased restrictions.

In a statement, the director of public health, Dr Mark Veitch, said three of the cases “are health care workers, one case is an inpatient, and two cases are close contacts of previously confirmed cases”.

“Four cases are male, two are female; their ages range from the 20s to 70s,” Dr Veitch said.

As of Monday, 57 people have recovered from coronavirus in Tasmania.

The update on the disease comes as the Tasmanian Government confirmed it had called in assistance from the Federal Government and Australian Defence Force as it tries to contain a coronavirus outbreak in the region.

What the experts are saying about coronavirus:

Between 4,000 and 5,000 Tasmanians will be forced into two weeks of quarantine from Monday as part of the shutdown of two hospitals on the north-west coast.

Tasmania COVID-19 snapshot

  • Confirmed cases: 180
  • Deaths: 6

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.

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein announced on Sunday that Burnie’s North West Regional Hospital and North West Private Hospital would be closed from 7:00am on Monday.

About 1,200 staff and their households will undertake the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Eleven more people, eight of them hospital staff, tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday.

Mr Gutwein said he understood the decision to close the hospitals and force thousands of people into quarantine would be very disruptive.

“I don’t think any Premier ever, in the history of this state, has had to ask so many people to do so much to help us to get on top of this outbreak,” he said.

“The measures we put in place now, I hope, will be supported by the north-west community.

“We need you to work with us, we need you to follow the rules, to do as we ask, to stay home, to save lives.

“We will get through this but the only way that we will get through this is together.”

He said while the quarantine order was “an extreme measure, it’s a measure that we needed to take”.

“That is unprecedented. It’s a significant ask of the north-west coast and the residents of the north-west coast,” he said.

“I would ask that you take the necessary steps to ensure that we can control this outbreak [and] not only flatten the curve, but work to crush it.”

He said it was essential people followed the rules if they wanted their lives to return to normal.

“If we can lock down for two weeks then there is an opportunity for us to return and start to lift the additional restrictions that we put in place on the north-west coast,” he said.

“This is difficult, there is an outbreak occurring there. They are the epicentre of our battle at the moment and we need you to work with us.”

Coronavirus update: Follow the latest news in our daily wrap.

Of Sunday’s cases, seven were from the NWRH, one worked at that hospital and at the Mersey Community Hospital near Devonport, one was a patient at the Mersey Community Hospital, and two were contacts.

“The provisions that we’ve made with regards to the Mersey Community Hospital, we have reconfigured that hospital, we have infectious diseases experts on site to ensure that that site is configured as safely as possible,” Health Minister Sarah Courtney said.

She said extra PPE (personal protective equipment) was being sent to the Mersey Community Hospital.

And she stressed that emergency medical care was still available on the north-west coast. 

“I’d like to reassure all Tasmanians that if you’re on the north-west coast and you experience a medical emergency, please do not hesitate to call 000,’ she said.

“We have plans in place to make sure that you get the highest quality care.”

She said ADF medics would help get the emergency department at the NWRH up and running again once it had been thoroughly cleaned.

“We are going to deploy these clean staff that have been provided from the ADF and from AusMAT (Australian Medical Assistance Teams) to Burnie to enable emergency department presentations within 72 hours,” she said. 

“That is our aim — to make sure that that community has a health care service as they need.”

Police patrols continue


Police were patrolling Table Cape this Easter weekend to check for those breaking coronavirus measures. (Supplied: Tasmania Police)

Police are promising more frequent and highly visible patrols on Tasmanian roads and in the air as the Easter long weekend comes to a close.

In the past 24 hours there were six summonses and arrests for breaches of coronavirus laws, with 20 advice notices and warnings issued.

In the 24 hours to Sunday morning, police charged 23 people with failing to comply with social-distancing laws.

On Sunday the Premier said police would be paying “special attention” to areas in the north-west.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Jonathan Higgins said it was generally quiet.

“It seems that most of the community is acting responsibility, and we thank them for their compliance.,” he said.

“It is pleasing to note that the number of people doing the wrong thing has decreased in the past 24 hours.

“However, there are still examples of people taking risks and selfishly ignoring the restrictions.”

In one instance, police intercepted two men who drove nearly 500 kilometres on a return trip from Railton to Strahan, via Rosebery, to purchase a car for sale on the side of the road.

The pair stopped twice for fuel and coffee.

Police said this was an unnecessary trip which potentially put other communities at risk.

The men are being proceeded against for several offences.

“With the additional stronger restrictions on retail activity now in place in the north-west, there are fewer reasons to leave your home,” Acting Deputy Commissioner Higgins said.

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Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news