Australia’s chief medical officer has apologised to Tasmanian health workers for fuelling speculation an “illegal dinner party” contributed to a coronavirus outbreak.
Professor Brendan Murphy pointed the finger at health workers while giving evidence to a recent New Zealand parliamentary inquiry earlier this month.
On Wednesday, Professor Murphy released an apologetic statement.
“I apologise to Tasmanian health workers for my comments, and welcome the positive outcome of the investigation,” he said.
There has been a large cluster of COVID-19 cases in Tasmania’s north-west, with three more health workers diagnosed on Tuesday.
When talking about the outbreak during the New Zealand inquiry, Professor Murphy suggested the behaviour of health workers might have contributed.
“We thought we were doing really well in the last week and then we had a cluster of 49 cases in a hospital in Tasmania just over the weekend,” he said.
“Most of them went to an illegal dinner party of medical workers, we think.”
He later walked back the claim, with union representatives saying the “baseless” rumours had distressed frontline health workers.
There were reports workers had been verbally abused as a result of the dinner party speculation.
At the time, Tasmania’s director of public health, Mark Veitch, said contact tracing had not verified the claim and earlier this week a police investigation found there was no evidence the dinner party happened.
Police said investigators had “determined that there is no evidence of such a gathering occurring” and thanked health workers for their assistance in the inquiry.
On Monday, Premier Peter Gutwein said an “independent review” would be conducted into the coronavirus outbreak in Tasmania’s north-west.
Mr Gutwein offered few details, saying the review would be conducted by “people with appropriate qualifications”.
Tasmania has recorded 218 confirmed cases, including four new cases confirmed on Tuesday, and 11 deaths.
More than half of the cases and 10 deaths are in the north-west.