ADF reinforcements in Tas virus outbreak

Tasmania has called on the Australian Defence Force in its battle against a COVID-19 outbreak in the northwest that has closed two hospitals and forced 5000 people into quarantine.

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. 

Of 144 coronavirus cases in Tasmania, 60 are linked to the northwest cluster, including 42 healthcare workers and eight patients. 

About 1200 healthcare staff have been ordered to quarantine for two weeks, along with their households, placing up to 5000 people in isolation.

Australian Medical Assistance Teams, which are deployed in natural disasters, and ADF medics will this week arrive in the northwest to deliver services.

“Never before has a premier had to ask a community to do this,” Premer Peter Gutwein said on Monday. 

“I’ve got to admit, the responsibility rests heavy on me in having to make these decisions. But I would ask that you work with us.

“This is the best way that we can get on top of this, that we can stop the spread of this insidious disease.”

Mr Gutwein on Sunday announced the hospitals would be shut after a spike in northwest virus cases. 

The state government is aiming to use the “clean” ADF medics to bring the emergency department back online in 72 hours, with the opening of other services to be staggered. 

Patients have been transferred to the Mersey Community Hospital, at nearby Latrobe, which is being provided with extra personal protective equipment. 

Testing will also be ramped up in the region. 

Five elderly people have died from COVID-19 in Tasmania, four of them at the North West Regional Hospital. 

Investigations are ongoing into how the virus spread, with more expected to be known in the next week.

All of the state’s latest 11 cases, confirmed on Sunday night, were in the northwest, comprising eight healthcare workers, one patient and two close contacts of positive cases.

In further tightened restrictions, childcare centres in the region are only allowed to accept children whose parents who are at work in an essential capacity. 

Fifty-seven people have recovered from the virus. 

Police, meanwhile, praised the majority of people for abiding by strict stay-at-home rules over the Easter break. 

Twenty-three people were charged with breaking the rules in the 24 hours to Sunday morning. 

Two men were caught by officers driving 500km on a round trip from the state’s north to the west coast to buy a car.

The pair, who are likely facing several charges, stopped twice for fuel and coffee.

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