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Tougher quarantine amid Tas virus outbreak

Tasmania has stepped up quarantine measures in the state’s northwest, where an outbreak of coronavirus has hit two hospitals.

Thirty-eight people linked to the North West Regional Hospital and North West Private Hospital in Burnie, including 26 healthcare workers, have tested positive to COVID-19 as of Saturday afternoon.

About 130 staff from the hospitals have been stood down and placed in quarantine to mitigate the outbreak.

In an extension of restrictions, the state government has ordered the households of quarantined workers to self-isolate as well.

Households of patients discharged from March 27 onwards have also been told to quarantine in their homes.

“We would ask people that are affected, that they would work with us and that their families would work with us,” Premier Peter Gutwein said.

“We need to ring-fence this, we need to get on top of it. We need to ensure that community transmission doesn’t occur.”

Of the 38 hospital-linked cases, seven are inpatients, one a discharged patient and four are close contacts of healthcare workers.

It was announced on Friday that the hospitals’ medical and surgical ward staff would have to self-quarantine for two weeks.

Staff still working at the hospitals will be exposed to tighter screening, and will be questioned about whether any of their close contacts are ill.

Public Health Director Mark Veitch conceded the quarantine measures are putting a strain on the health system but it was crucial to prevent the virus spreading.

Tasmania had its fourth coronavirus death on Friday, an elderly man who died in the North West Regional Hospital.

The state has recorded 122 virus cases as of Saturday afternoon, with 52 people recovering.

Mr Gutwein praised Tasmanians for, in the main, abiding by instructions to stay at home over the Easter holidays.

By late Friday, 89 cars had been “turned around” and directed to go home by police, many of them with caravans or camper trailers.

Police have told 20 people to leave their holiday shacks and recently charged four people with flouting laws that prevent unnecessary travel.

“By now, everyone knows the directions,” Tasmania Police Commissioner Robert Blackwood said.

“If you don’t follow those directions, expect to be charged and summonsed.”

Helicopters are being used to patrol people’s movements while officers are doorknocking shacks in regional and coastal communities.

Originally published as Tougher quarantine amid Tas virus outbreak

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