A fourth death and an outbreak of COVID-19 cases in Tasmania’s north west has prompted “extraordinary” measures by health authorities.
Ten of 11 new cases confirmed since April 9 are linked to Burnie’s North West Regional Hospital or the North West Private Hospital, where an elderly man died on Friday.
Eight of the new cases are healthcare workers who have worked at the hospitals, Public Health Services’ acting director of public health Scott McKeown said.
Two of the new cases are hospital patients.
Twenty-three workers have now tested positive and 36 cases are linked to the facilities.
McKeown said contacts of the new confirmed cases are being traced.
“It may be necessary for other staff and patients to be tested for coronavirus as investigations progress,” he said in a statement on Friday night.
More than 100 doctors and nurses from the North West Regional Hospital have already been quarantined and are being tested for COVID-19.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Tony Lawler said quarantining a large number of staff and testing them even if asymptomatic was an “extraordinary step” in excess of the national guidelines.
He explained there has been a reinterpretation of “close contact”.
“We have potentially underestimated the number of close contacts from those we’ve assessed,” he said.
Instead of re-tracing every known case in Tasmania—there are 120 recorded—authorities agreed quarantining any hospital staff who worked in the vicinity of a COVID-19 positive patient was the most risk-averse approach.
The efforts come as police are on the lookout for Tasmanians making non-essential travel over the Easter break.
A spokesperson told AAP on Friday evening that Tasmania Police were generally satisfied with the public’s compliance with social distancing measures.
Lawler said however, those who failed to socially isolate did so out of “ignorance” and “selfishness.”
“This is not just the flu. This is a disease that is scaring doctors and scaring nurses,” he said.
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein passed on his condolences to the family of the deceased man on Friday.
“The tragic passing is a stark reminder that we must continue to abide by the measures we have put in place, and continue to do all we can to keep Tasmanians safe and secure,” he said.
By Andi Yu