Tasmanian police dismiss allegations first aired publicly by Australia’s Chief Medical Officer that an illegal dinner party of healthcare workers contributed to Tasmania’s coronavirus outbreak.

April 27, 2020 17:11:07
Allegations of a supposed “illegal dinner party” contributing to Tasmania’s coronavirus outbreak, first aired publicly by Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, have been quashed by police.
Key points:

  • Tasmania’s Premier promises to release an internal report into the north-west outbreak and says there will also be an independent review
  • Police have dismissed allegations north-west healthcare workers held an “illegal dinner party” contributing to the disease’s spread
  • Two thirds of Tasmania’s cases are linked to the outbreak, as well as 10 of the 11 deaths

In a statement on Monday, Tasmania Police said it had conducted an assessment into an alleged illegal dinner party of healthcare workers on the north-west coast.
Earlier this month, Brendan Murphy told a New Zealand parliamentary committee that most of the people involved in a cluster of cases around the town of Burnie, including in the North West Regional Hospital, went to the dinner party.
He later walked back the claim, with union representatives saying the “baseless” claims had distressed frontline health workers.
Tasmania’s Premier Gutwein also criticised the airing of the allegations.
Today, police said investigators had “determined that there is no evidence of such a gathering occurring after the relevant Directions by the Director of Public Health under section 16 of the Public Health Act 1997”.
Tasmania Police said it “would like to thank the health care workers and general public and community that have assisted in advancing this enquiry”.
At Monday’s press conference, Mr Gutwein said an “independent review” would be conducted into the coronavirus outbreak in the north-west.
Mr Gutwein offered few details, saying the review would be conducted by “people with appropriate qualifications”.
“The review will happen at an appropriate time but that does not mean we’ll wait until the pandemic is over,” he said.
“We will time it so our most senior people can remain focused on the task at hand, and that’s getting on top of the outbreak.”
The Government’s own report into the outbreak was handed to the secretary of health responsible for the Tasmanian Health Service at the weekend, Mr Gutwein said.
He said it would be released in full later this week.
Anyone with ‘minor’ COVID symptoms should get tested
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 phone your GP or the Tasmanian Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.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.
Last week authorities said infections associated with the outbreak appeared to be “trailing off”.
On Monday the Premier warned people not to let “complacency creep in”.
“This is an insidious disease,” he said.
Tasmania recorded three coronavirus deaths between Friday and Sunday and four new cases on Sunday night, taking the state’s total to 212 cases, including 140 in the north-west) and 11 deaths.
So far 132 people have recovered from COVID-19 in Tasmania.
Authorities said there were 726 tests conducted in the state on Sunday and 553 people were already booked in for Monday.
Public Health director Mark Veitch said people should contact public health authorities to get tested for coronavirus “no matter how minor your symptoms”.
Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak
The high figures are partially due to healthcare employees in the region being tested so they can return to work.
“Quite a number of those tested in the north-west are healthcare workers participating in the return to work program, but many are members of the community,” he said.
“There’s a need to increase the testing in the north and south for people who have any respiratory symptoms at all it’s a very important part of community surveillance.
“We really want to see at least several hundred people come forward a day.”
New cases in far north-west
Contact tracing is underway relating to three people from the Circular Head area who tested positive for the virus.
Dr Veitch said the new cases in Smithton showed how easily COVID-19 could spread.
“The important thing is, because this is a relatively new location we’re really encouraging people to go get tested if they have even the slightest sniffle.”
Dr Veitch also confirmed a resident at the Melaleuca Home for the Aged in East Devonport was among the state’s 11 COVID-19 fatalities.
Testing was conducted at three aged care homes in the state’s north-west after a worker tested positive earlier this month.
No infections have been identified at the other two aged care homes.
Mr Veitch said all staff at the Melaleuca home would be retested.
Restrictions unlikely to be lifted early
Tasmania will not be following the lead of other states in relaxing coronavirus restrictions early.
Mr Gutwein said from the outset Tasmania had a particularly vulnerable population with more older people.
“While some states may lift restrictions early, I don’t believe we’ll be doing that,” he said.
“I don’t want to have a knee-jerk reaction and take away restrictions too early only to have to bring them back again.”
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First posted
April 27, 2020 11:27:29
stories from Tasmania