The Tasmanian Premier has said claims that hospital workers attended an illegal party are a ‘rumor’. Picture: Patrick Gee
The Tasmanian Premier has said claims that hospital workers attended an illegal party are a ‘rumor’. Picture: Patrick Gee

Aussie state’s new virus debacle

Tasmania has found itself in the middle of a national coronavirus debacle with accusations flying of ill-equipped hospital staff and a rumoured "illegal dinner party", as thousands have been forced into quarantine.

An outbreak in the state has seen up to 5000 people hold up in forced quaratine as two hospitals were closed down.

Anger was sparked over the outbreak among health workers this morning when it was suggested by Australia's chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy that the infected professionals may have come into contact with the virus at an "illegal party", but later retracted his comments after the theory was dismissed as hearsay.

Prof Murphy clarified that contact tracing hadn't yet linked the virus cluster to such a party, but police are currently investigating the claims.

Another leading health authority has suggested hospital staff may have been poorly equipped with personal protective equipment during the beginning of the outbreak, which could have contributed to the spread.

Authorities this week closed down the North West Regional Hospital in Burnie and the North West Private Hospital after a cluster of more than 60 coronavirus cases was identified at the facilities. Of those, 45 were staff. The two hospitals service about 20 per cent of Tasmania's population.

"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," Prof Murphy said on Tuesday.

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said claims about a party with hospital workers is a ‘rumour’. Picture Chris Kidd
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said claims about a party with hospital workers is a ‘rumour’. Picture Chris Kidd

Australian Medical Association's Tasmanian branch president Professor John Burgess suggested the outbreak may have been linked to issues to do with personal protective equipment (PPE) faced by the state in the early stages of the pandemic.

In an interview with ABC TV, Prof Burgess said staff "training and support" around PPE needed to be improved and said supply of the vital equipment was an ongoing global issue.

He warned the extent of the outbreak in Tasmania will not be known for at least 10 days as those possibly exposed in the outbreak are in quarantine.

Prof Burgess also said containment includes reducing the "risk of droplet spread which can go up to 1.5-2m when someone coughs or sneezes".

But he pointed out that a droplet on a surface can remain infectious "for many hours or even days" after it's expelled and some of these issues were still being overlooked.

"I think from the training point of view, no-one really can properly train for what we've seen happen around the world and in this state because the magnitude of this contagion is such that it is something which is unprecedented … it's a once in a century event."

Tasmania has recorded 150 cases of coronavirus.

Originally published as Aussie state's new virus debacle


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