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Cluster of coronavirus cases that shut down quarter of Tasmania was caused by ‘illegal dinner party’

The illegal dinner party that shut down HALF of Tasmania: How a gathering of staff at TWO hospitals led to one of Australia’s biggest clusters of COVID-19

Australia’s Chief Medial Officer has claimed an ‘illegal dinner party’ led to the shut down of half of Tasmania because of a coronavirus outbreak among health workers. 

Two hospitals in Burnie, northwest Tasmania, were closed on Monday amid a cluster of more than 60 COVID-19 cases, including about 45 staff, associated with the facilities.

Dr Brendan Murphy was appearing on Tuesday before the Epidemic Response Committee – which has been suspended under New Zealand’s lockdown – when he let the revelation slip. 

‘We thought we were doing really well in the last week,’ he told the committee via video link.

‘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.’ 

The North West Regional Hospital and North West Private Hospital in Burnie shut on Monday morning so they could be deep-cleaned by specialist teams. 

About 1,200 healthcare staff have been ordered to quarantine for two weeks, along with their households, placing up to 5,000 people in isolation.  

But Premier Peter Gutwein on Tuesday 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.’ 

Premier Gutwein said they were forced to call in the Australian Defence Force to cope with the outbreak in the north-west. 

‘It’s also why, unfortunately, again, we had to implement increased restrictions on business across the north-west coast,’ he said.

‘We want to see less contact between people and we need to ensure that you follow the rules, that you apply social distancing, that you do everything that you possibly can to follow the rules and save lives.

‘We’ve requested that the ADF come into Tasmania and assist us with the outbreak in the north-west.’