Health authorities are pleading with Queenslanders to get tested for COVID-19 after the sudden death of 30-year-old mining worker Nathan Turner.
Mr Turner, who lived in the central Queensland mining town of Blackwater, was thought to have been ill for several weeks but had not been tested for the virus.
His partner, Simone Devon, who found him unresponsive on the floor of their house on Tuesday afternoon, is in isolation in Rockhampton hospital after also suffering COVID-19 symptoms.
Her first test for the virus was negative, while results from a second test are expected on Thursday.
Mr Turner’s infection was the first detected in Blackwater, which has a population of about 5000. On Thursday, health authorities were racing to work out how he, and possibly his partner, contracted the virus.
“Come forward and get tested for your family’s sake, because we know the most likely transmission is within a household,” chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said on Thursday.
“If we can test you, we can stop you spreading it to other people if you have them in your household.
“Come forward for your community’s sake. Because then, if you have got a case, we can contact-trace around you and make sure we don’t end up with an outbreak. This is really, really important, as we lift restrictions going forward.”
Twenty of Mr Turner’s close contacts have been identified since his death was reported on Wednesday. Of those, 18 have been cleared of the virus.
Dr Young said Queensland had the capacity to test 10,000 people a day for the coronavirus – but was not doing even half that.
“I implore Queenslanders, if you have any symptoms at all, or a fever of 37.5 degrees or above, or a history of fever, then please come forward and get tested,” she said.
Dr Young said she could not rule out the possibility of community transmission of the virus in Blackwater. The town also has a significant number of fly-in, fly-out mine workers.
Authorities are exploring a potential link between Mr Turner’s death and a Rockhampton aged-care nurse, who has said she went to Blackwater watch the sun set before testing positive for coronavirus earlier in May.
The same nurse has been linked to the lockdown of a Rockhampton aged-care centre after she continued to go to work while sick and awaiting her COVID-19 test result.
Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles said the nurse went on a 400-kilometre round trip to Blackwater to watch the sun go down, before Mr Turner died.
“It’s possible that there is some kind of connection there, or it could just be a coincidence. That’s what our investigators are working on,” Dr Miles told ABC radio on Thursday.
“Those dates don’t really line up with when he got sick. It is a bit of a mystery and it could just be a coincidence.”
He said Blackwater residents weren’t told of the nurse’s visit because it was deemed low risk.
“To my knowledge, she drove there, watched the sunset, and drove back – didn’t leave her car.”
Mr Turner also had a complicated medical history and had not worked since November.
He was not tested for coronavirus while he was still alive because of the seriousness of his underlying condition.
A total of 103 people have died from the coronavirus in Australia. Seven were Queenslanders.