Australia’s top doctor has been slammed for laughing as he told New Zealand politicians they were lucky the Ruby Princess docked in Sydney.
Professor Brendan Murphy also chuckled as he claimed an ‘illegal dinner party’ of health workers led to a huge coronavirus outbreak in Tasmania.
Bungling authorities allowed the Ruby Princess cruise ship to disembark 2,700 passengers in Sydney Harbour on March 19 without health checks.
More than 600 guests later tested positive to coronavirus and 18 are dead, including three who died in Tasmania.
Bungling authorities allowed the Ruby Princess cruise ship to disembark 2,700 passengers in Sydney Harbour on March 19 without health checks. More than 600 guests later tested positive to coronavirus and 18 are dead
Professor Murphy, Australia’s chief medical officer, was briefing NZ’s Epidemic Response Committee on Tuesday when he let slip his comments.
‘We thought we were doing really well in the last week,’ he said.
‘Then we had a cluster of 49 cases in a hospital in Tasmania just over the weekend, most of them went to an illegal dinner party of medical workers.’
He later backflipped on his claim after Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said the party leading to the outbreak was an unconfirmed ‘rumour’.
Professor Murphy then let out a nervous laugh and went on to make a poorly-received joke about the ill-fated cruise ship, amid more laughter.
‘We think you’re very lucky that the Ruby Princess unloaded in Sydney rather than in New Zealand, because that’s become a bit of a saga here,’ he said.
The cruise stopped in several New Zealand cities before the country’s borders were closed and the ship returned to Sydney.
Hundreds of holidaymakers can be seen crammed together applauding the staff from the gold-trimmed staircase on board the Ruby Princess, unaware of the fact coronavirus had already made its way onto the liner
Australians lashed out at Professor Murphy for laughing at the Tasmanian situation, as well as his joke about the Ruby Princess
Australians lashed out at Professor Murphy for laughing at the Tasmanian situation, as well as his joke about the Ruby Princess.
‘The unprofessional smirk and laugh as Brendan Murphy made the statement about the ‘illegal dinner’ was disturbing!’ one wrote on social media.
‘Not appropriate behaviour for a doctor in a national leadership role, particularly on public media.’
Another wrote: ‘Just the pure fact he was laughing is revolting. He does not deserve to keep his position.’
‘And then Brendan Murphy laughs about it. People have died. It’s not funny,’ a third wrote in reference to his laugh when talking about the dinner party.
Professor Murphy later released a statement walking back his claim to be more in line with Mr Gutwein’s comments.
‘Whilst this possibility had previously been mentioned to me following formal investigations, I am now informed that the contact tracing has not confirmed that such a dinner party occurred,’ he said.
‘Tasmanian officials are continuing their investigations.’
Pictured: Tasmania’s coronavirus outbreak on the north-west coast has led to the shut down of almost half the state
There were 6,494 confirmed cases of coronavirus across the country on Tuesday morning
Social media users were incensed that after their outrage at the medics allegedly involved in the party, Professor Murphy wasn’t even sure.
‘Lets tell stories to other people with no real confirmation yet. This story is now out there,’ one wrote.
‘How will this affect the workers? Not good form with so much at stake.’
Another wrote that even before Tuesday they believed Professor Murphy to be a ‘bumbling idiot’ and this merely reinforced it.
‘To say something loaded as he did without hard evidence to a NZ Parliamentary committee simply reinforces his stupidity,’ they said.
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 6,394
New South Wales: 2,870
South Australia: 431
Western Australia: 523
Australian Capital Territory: 103
Northern Territory: 28
TOTAL CASES: 6,394
Mr Gutwein very quickly after the footage of Professor Murphy’s comments being aired said he could not confirm the source of the outbreak.
‘I spoke to Brendan Murphy, a short while ago. To be frank, Brendan was commenting on a rumour,’ he told a press conference.
‘At this stage… Our contact tracing has not identified a dinner party of health workers.
‘However, I accept that this is a serious allegation, and it’s something that needs to be followed up, and so we will retrace our steps.
‘I’ve asked the Tasmania Police to investigate this matter, and that will be started today. We need to get on top of this.’
Two hospitals in Burnie, northwest Tasmania, were closed on Monday with five deaths and 78 cases, including 45 medics, linked to the area.
More than 5,000 people including 1,200 hospital staff and their households were ordered to quarantine for 14 days while the hospitals were disinfected.
A third of Tasmania’s land mass was also placed under stronger lockdown with non-essential businesses including Kmart, Bunnings, and thousands of shops closed.
The alleged dinner party would be the latest in a series of blunders that is claimed to have led to the outbreak – starting with passengers arriving from the Ruby Princess cruise ship
Three passengers died from coronavirus at one of the two hospitals after they were allowed to disembark in Sydney without health checks and fly home to Tasmania.
Five elderly people have died from the virus in Tasmania, at least four of them at the North West Regional Hospital.
Trade supply stores are only open to tradespeople. Pictured: Shoppers at Bunnings
A man, aged in his 80s, died at North West Regional Hospital on Tuesday April 7. He was a passenger on the Ruby Princess cruise ship, which docked in Sydney Harbour on March 19.
Two other Ruby Princess passengers, both aged over 80, died at the same hospital on March 30 and March 31.
The Tasmanian government announced 14 days of ‘tough restrictions’ for the north-west of the state from Sunday.
Most retail businesses – including Kmart and Big W – have been forced to shut their doors during the two-week period.
Essential services such as pharmacies, supermarkets, food take-away, service/petrol stations and medical services remain open.
Trade supply stores are only open to tradespeople.
Timeline of Ruby Princess fiasco
March 18: The Ruby Princess issues an urgent mayday call for an ambulance for two of its passengers presenting with coronavirus-like symptoms 24 hours before the ship is allowed to dock in Sydney.
March 19: The Ruby Princess arrives in Sydney Harbour. More than 2,700 guests are allowed to disembark without adequate health checks.
March 25: Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram says New South Wales Health is responsible for letting coronavirus patients disembark the ship.
March 29: Several crew members are evacuated and taken to hospital after being diagnosed with coronavirus.
April 2: A 66-year-old crew member is taken off the Ruby Princess for medical treatment. More than 200 crew members are sick and in self-isolation.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian defends the actions of NSW Health and the Australian Border Force and points the finger at the Ruby Princess. She claims staff onboard may have misled NSW Health about the extent of illnesses in passengers.
April 3: Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton alleges Ruby Princess’ operators weren’t transparent about the health of crew: ‘It was ‘clear that some of the companies have been lying about the health of passengers and crew on board’.
April 4: Leaked emails show NSW Health knew of the coronavirus risk on board the Ruby Princess before allowing its thousands of passengers to disembark.
April 5: A criminal investigation is launched into how passengers were able to disembark without health checks
April 8: A team of 30 detectives from state crime, counter terrorism and marine area command start investigating the handling of the Ruby Princess coronavirus scandal. The first briefing into the investigation is held.
April 9: NSW Police clad in PPE equipment raid the vessel, questioning its captain and searching for evidence in a rapid escalation of the criminal investigation.
April 11: NSW Health confirms that at least 46 crew members of the Ruby Princess cruise ship have contracted COVID-19
April 13: NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller says patient zero on board may have been a crew member serving meals to hundreds of passengers