The aged care nurse linked to Australia’s youngest coronavirus victim has insisted it’s impossible she was the cause of his infection, amid fears of a fresh outbreak.
Nathan Turner, 30, died on Tuesday with COVID-19 in the Queensland mining town of Blackwater, despite the area having no known cases – sparking panic among locals.
Mystery surrounded how the miner became infected as he hadn’t left Blackwater since February, fuelling fears that it could become home to the country’s latest coronavirus cluster.
Panicked locals are now queuing to get tested as authorities scramble to contain a potential outbreak.
He first displayed symptoms three weeks ago, but threw a party at his home with his fiancee Simone Devon just three days before his death.
Fears emerged that a Rockhampton nurse, who is suspended from her job at a care home after working with symptoms, had driven to the town while infectious.
Nathan Turner (pictured) was described as the ‘a country gentleman’ by his devastated mates after he became the youngest person in Australia to die with coronavirus
Cars are seen queuing to get coronavirus tests on Thursday in Blackwater (pictured) with officials baffled as to how a local man contracted the virus
The nurse, whose name has never been revealed, told authorities she had taken a 400km round trip to ‘watch the sunset’ in the mining town.
She was re-interviewed on Thursday as authorities desperately tried to piece together how COVID-19 reached the town – with the nurse admitting she had been on a recent holiday to Malaysia.
But officials said it was ‘unlikely’ the nurse is the cause of Mr Turner’s infection because of the timing of her bizarre trip – but it is still ‘possible’.
The nurse admitted to going on an illegal road trip on May 10, driving 167km from Rockhampton to Blackwater, The Australian reported.
Nathan Turner (pictured) tested positive to COVID-19 following his death on Tuesday, sparking a testing blitz across his small mining town in central Queensland
Mr Turner’s body was discovered in his Blackwater home (pictured) on Tuesday after his fiancee returned from work at a local bakery
This is 17 days before Mr Turner’s death, and his was reportedly suffering symptoms 21 days before his death.
‘My advice is that the timing of that trip means it’s unlikely she is the source of the infection, but it’s possible,’ Health Minister Steven Miles said.
‘Obviously it is a bit curious.’
She is understood to have insisted that she never left her car during the unusual scenic road trip, and had no contact with other people.
However Mr Turner caught the fatal respiratory virus, it has panicked locals in the small town.
Member for Gregory Lachlan Millar admitted anxiety levels were high and called for calm, saying anyone concerned could be tested.
Nathan Turner (pictured, left) with his partner Simone Devon (right) who discovered his body on Tuesday after she returned from work
Mr Turner’s fiancee, Simone Devon (pictured in a checkered shirt on Thursday) is seen outside their home after his unexpected death on Tuesday
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 7,150
New South Wales: 3,090
Western Australia: 570
South Australia: 440
Australian Capital Territory: 107
Northern Territory: 29
TOTAL CASES: 7,150
‘There are a lot of people pointing fingers at the moment, but that isn’t the right way to go about it,’ Mr Millar said on Thursday.
Mr Turner was found dead at home on Tuesday by his fiancee when she returned from work at the local bakery, forcing it to shut.
A coal miner, he had been off work since November after suffering from seizures and complex medical problems.
Mr Turner’s shattered family does not believe coronavirus is what caused his death as he also suffered from epilepsy and asthma, and regularly caught the flu.
His shock diagnosis forced the closure of the town’s police station, after three officers were forced into home isolation, as were paramedics who rushed to the scene.
Queensland Health has since tested more than 120 residents of the town, and even began analysing local sewerage to look for any community transmission.
Nathan Turner (pictured) is the youngest person in Australia to die with COVID-19, taking the national death toll to 103
This includes around 20 people who had ‘close contact’ with the miner, but all had negative results.
Some of those tested and cleared attended a recent party at his home.
More revelations about the nurse’s travel history also came to light, after she admitted to Queensland Health she had travelled to Kuala Lumpur in late March.
Health officials only learned about the trip on Thursday, despite the nursing sparking panicked testing at the North Rockhampton Nursing Centre in early May.
‘She came back from overseas and self-isolated for 14 days, with a colleague bringing her food,’ a spokesman for the Nurses Professional Association of Queensland told The Australian.
The nursing body insisted the trip was ‘irrelevant’ and she hadn’t needed to tell authorities.
Nathan Turner (pictured) worked as a miner, but had been off work since November, officials said
The victim has not worked since November and has not left the central Queensland town of since February. Blackwater (pictured) has a population of about 4,500 people
Specialist genome sequencing is now being used to identify whether the coronavirus strain Mr Turner was suffering with was the same as the nursed had.
It is hoped the test could finally determine whether her mysterious road trip, which went against COVID-19 travel restrictions, was to blame.
His partner, Ms Devon, is in isolation despite testing negative to COVID-19, meaning she was forced to miss a candlelight vigil in his honour.
Residents of the town paid tribute to the ‘country gentleman’ at the moving event on Thursday.
‘We are overwhelmed and very grateful,’ Ms Devon’s mother Lorraine told the Courier Mail.
‘We never expected this.’
A nurse is seen testing a woman for COVID-19 at a testing centre in Sydney on May 12 (pictured) with similar tests being performed at the Queensland aged care centre
Local MP Brittany Lauga called for the nurse, who is under investigation by the Crime and Corruption Commission, to be fined for breaking lockdown rules.
Earlier this month, the unnamed nurse continued working at the North Rockhampton Nursing Centre despite having coronavirus symptoms.
The nurse is reported to have been contagious since May 3, and continued working with the elderly residents despite showing symptoms from May 5.
She later tested positive, sparking a frantic testing blitz of the centre’s 200 vulnerable residents – all of whom tested negative.
The nurse has been suspended and has been referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission over an alleged breach of public health directions.
QUEENSLAND VIRUS DEATH SENDS OFFICIALS INTO A SPIN
WHAT ARE THE FACTS?
* Nathan Turner, a 30-year-old miner in the town of Blackwater, was found dead in his home on Tuesday.
* He is the youngest person in Australia to die from COVID-19 and while his partner has symptoms, she has so far tested negative.
* A nurse in Rockhampton, 200km away, was the first case in central Queensland.
* She is suspended and under investigation because she kept going to work at an aged care facility while showing symptoms.
HOW ARE THE CASES CONNECTED?
* The nurse told health officials she made a 400km round trip to Blackwater while she was sick to see the sun set before Mr Turner died.
* She also said she didn’t come into contact with anyone while she was there.
* Steven Miles, the Deputy Premier and Health Minister, says she is unlikely to have been the source of MrTurner’s illness but that there is a possible link.
DOES THAT MEAN THERE IS COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION?
* Mr Turner hadn’t left the town of Blackwater since February.
* Dr Jeannette Young, the state’s Chief Health Officer, won’t rule out community transmission.
* Health officials have traced 20 people Nathan Turner came into contact with, most of whom were from Blackwater, and those tested have so far returned negative results.
WHAT ARE OFFICIALS DOING?
* Three fever clinics have been set up in Blackwater to test the 4,700 locals.
* Sewage testing has been ordered to help quantify infection levels.
* The town has a large fly-in, fly-out workforce, which is also being worked through.