1000 to go into quarantine as hospitals close in Tasmania
TWO North-West Tasmanian hospitals have been shut down and more than 1000 people quarantined in the race to contain the state's main coronavirus outbreak.
Premier Peter Gutwein has also announced further non-essential business closures in the North-West, stopping short of an "impractical" total lockdown of the region.
Urgency grew around the outbreak over the weekend with 32 of 33 Tasmanian cases confirmed between Friday and Sunday linked to the North West Regional and North West Private hospitals.
Of the state's 144 cases, 72 have been in the North-West.
The state's coronavirus death toll increased to five on Sunday, following the death of a woman in her 70s from the North-West.
The State Government confirmed another 11 cases on Sunday, all in the North-West.
Eight were health care workers, one was an inpatient, and two were close contacts of previously confirmed cases.
The NWRH and the private hospital will close from today for two weeks to undergo a "super clean" in a bid to eradicate traces of the virus.
All staff from both hospitals and their families will have to go into quarantine for 14 days from the staff member's last shift.
Health Minister Sarah Courtney said the hospital closures were unprecedented in Tasmanian history.
"This has been an extremely difficult decision to make, and has involved complex clinical planning, but it is based on the best advice from our local experts," Ms Courtney said.
Acting Director of Public Health Scott McKeown said he was confident the government was taking the best measures to control the outbreak.
"We also want to increase significantly testing across the region," he said.
Public health officials are yet to reveal any suspected cause of the North-West hospitals cluster, saying investigations are continuing.
"We will certainly release the findings … once the investigation has been completed," Dr McKeown said.
The government is aiming to have the NWRH emergency department back operating within 72 hours with a fresh team of staff, followed by maternity services, cancer services, the ICU and paediatrics.
Most patients, including four with coronavirus, will be transferred to the Mersey Community Hospital at Latrobe.
In the further business shutdowns which take effect from Monday, all non-essential retailers in the North-West will be forced to close for 14 days.
Exceptions include pharmacies and medical suppliers, supermarkets and grocers, takeaway businesses, petrol stations, bakeries, bottle shops, banks and dry cleaners.
Mr Gutwein said he hoped to lift the restrictions at the end of the two weeks, but this would depend on the level of community transmission in the region.
"The aim of this is to get to the end of a two-week period where we can bring those health services back online and importantly be able to lift those restrictions as well. We need to do this, we need to do it now, we need to get on top of it," he said.
Mr Gutwein said completely isolating the region from the rest of the state was "impractical" due to freight routes and provision of emergency services.
"Social distancing is the best way to beat this," he said.
Mr Gutwein said the tighter North-West restrictions would be enforced by an increased police presence.