The prime minister has accused a healthcare worker of being untruthful about their movements after they tested positive for COVID-19.
Mr Morrison told Tasmania’s Triple M radio, “We’ve had someone… not tell the truth to the contact tracers about where they’d been and who they’d been with and that means that a lot of people have been put at risk in north-west Tasmania.”
The ABC later confirmed the person mentioned by the prime minister had recently worked at three nursing homes.
Mr Morrison said the dishonesty has been “very unhelpful” in the north-west region of Tasmania, where authorities have been battling to contain an outbreak in aged care and healthcare communities.
Two hospitals have been forced to close in the region, after almost 100 COVID-19 infections were identified, including 60 workers and 16 patients. And 5,000 people have been quarantined.
Mr Morrison said the incident is an example of why a coronavirus-tracking app is needed.
Tasmania’s Premier Peter Gutwein said the healthcare worker in question had recently worked at two hospitals – North West Regional Hospital and North West Private Hospital – and three aged care facilities – Melaleuca Nursing Home, Eliza Purton Home for the Aged and Coroneagh Park.
The worker may have been infected with COVID-19 at the time.
Mr Gutwein said all residents and staff in the nursing homes will be tested today, and one resident was displaying “mild respiratory symptoms”. Residents and staff will continue to be monitored for symptoms.
Anyone who worked with the person will be quarantined for 14 days, and residents are having their movements limited. One person has been sent home.
Director of Public Health, Mark Veitch, said people can dismiss common symptoms, such as a runny nose, not realising they can be signs of COVID-19.
He recommends aged care facilities ask staff arriving for work if they are displaying any respiratory symptoms. He said a number of facilities are enforcing that requirement and he recommends it be implemented more broadly.
Mr Veitch said asking the questions is more important than checking temperatures as carriers can be contagious before displaying symptoms.
Mr Veitch said an initial round of contact tracing elicited a considerable amount of information, but it emerged the person may have displayed symptoms earlier than first thought.
“So we cast the net wider”, he said. “We may not always pull out all the details when we ask questions the first time.”
He would not be drawn on whether or not the person had been untruthful. He said neither he, nor his team had provided “specific information” to the prime minister about the healthcare worker.
Mr Veitch said his contact tracing team is now looking for all contacts of the healthcare worker.
There have been 180 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Tasmania, after a further 11 cases were confirmed overnight. Tasmania has recorded six deaths.
Mr Gutein said aged care facilities are “highly vulnerable” settings and that in the north-west region of Tasmania.
He said stay-at-home orders will be “strictly policed” and roadblocks may be used to help restrict people’s movements.