Contact tracers are investigating how Australia’s youngest coronavirus victim managed to contract COVID-19 in a small Queensland town with no active cases.
The sudden death of Nathan Turner, 30, at his Blackwater home on Tuesday sent shockwaves through the small mining community and has left the country’s health leaders worried not enough people are getting tested.
Mr Turner’s partner is in isolation in Rockhampton Hospital after she, too, developed symptoms.
In an attempt to uncover where the virus originated, a team of public health experts and additional contact tracing resources has been sent to Blackwater from Brisbane.
From Thursday morning, Blackwater residents will be able to visit a fever clinic if they show any symptoms.
Deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly said Mr Turner’s death was a reminder that no one was immune to the serious disease.
Mr Turner had shown symptoms for several weeks but didn’t get tested, apparently partly because of a separate serious underlying health condition.
“It is another very strong reminder to all of us at this point, if anyone has any symptoms that are of a respiratory virus, a cold – it might feel like a cold – it could be COVID and we really want to get that test done,” Professor Kelly said.
Mr Turner had other health issues but authorities are counting his death as related to COVID-19. An autopsy has confirmed he had the coronavirus.
Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young said Mr Turner was believed to have been sick for several weeks but it was not known how he contracted the virus.
“You then get into semantics about what was the trigger and what was the cause. Any person who dies, who is infected with COVID-19, we declare it as a COVID-19 related death,” Dr Young said
Mr Turner’s death, which was reported on Wednesday, took Australia’s toll from the virus to 103.
The country has had 11 new cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of infections to 7139.
Fewer than 500 (470) of these people are still sick, with 30 in hospital.
Hotel worker among fresh Victorian cases
Meanwhile, a worker at a Melbourne hotel housing returned travellers in quarantine is among the eight fresh coronavirus cases in Victoria, as Cedar Meats resumes full operations on Thursday.
Cedar Meats at Brooklyn was the centre of a virus cluster that ballooned to include 111 workers and their close contacts.
About 300 staff who have been cleared by the health department will resume work in coming days.
Meanwhile, the state’s royal commission into mental health will also examine the psychological toll of the virus.
It has been granted an extra three months to complete a final report, which is now due in February.
The commission’s work was hit, with public hearings and community meetings cancelled.
“We have already seen its profound impact on our collective mental health and wellbeing,” commission chair Penny Armytage said.
School lessons learned about ‘the new normal’
Two non-government schools in Sydney’s eastern suburbs remain closed for cleaning following positive cases among students.
Waverley College said its senior campus would reopen on Friday after a 12-year-old year seven boy tested positive earlier in the week.
Nearby Moriah College said it was planning to re-open next week after a 10-year-old pupil tested positive.
On Wednesday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian denied jumping the gun in encouraging students to return to classrooms this week.
“This [temporary closures] is the new normal during the pandemic,” Ms Berejiklian told the Nine Network.
“It is a very big coincidence two students in close proximity happened to get it when we have had very low numbers of students actually getting the disease.
“Because this happens in two schools with one student each doesn’t mean you shut down the entire system.”
Al Kuwait crew tested
In Western Australia, officials are also monitoring a possible new cluster related to a live export ship.
WA Premier Mark McGowan expects more crew members will test positive after six crew of the livestock carrier Al Kuwait were detected after it docked in Fremantle.
But Professor Kelly said they were not severely unwell and were in hotel quarantine. The remaining 42 crew members are being tested.
Seven quarantine officers and port workers who boarded the vessel all wore protective equipment.
Two had close contact with crew and are in isolation.