Tougher quarantine amid Tas virus outbreak

About 130 doctors and nurses from two hospitals in northwest Tasmania have been quarantined.
About 130 doctors and nurses from two hospitals in northwest Tasmania have been quarantined.

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.

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 on Saturday 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.

Eleven new cases in the northwest were confirmed on Saturday night, but no link to the hospitals was confirmed.

It takes the state's case tally to 133, with 52 people recovering.

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.

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

About 90 cars have 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 have charged 20 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.

Australian Associated Press