Dozens of passengers on a COVID-hit cruise ship berthed in Hobart have been ordered into seven-day quarantine, as Tasmania reported a fresh daily case record.
The state’s health department has deemed all 60 passengers and 30 crew from the Coral Discoverer are close contacts of two COVID-positive people who were removed from the vessel on Monday.
Despite the ship’s COVID-safe plan, Director of Public Health Mark Veitch said the nature of its operation and closeness of passengers and crew meant there was significant exposure and a high risk of transmission.
They have been tested and their results remain pending, and must also quarantine in suitable accommodation for at least the next seven days.
‘Do not pose a risk’
“The circumstances on the vessel do not pose a risk to the Tasmanian public,” Dr Veitch said in a statement on Tuesday.
It comes as dozens of staff from the state’s largest hospital are furloughed and Tasmania braces to hit 2000 daily COVID-19 cases within weeks.
The island state reported 702 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, eclipsing its previous daily high of 466 a day earlier.
The result came from 2088 tests, as active infections rose to 2244 cases.
Health Minister Jeremy Rockliff has warned daily cases will rise further, along with the number of COVID-related hospital admissions.
“Over the next few weeks, we may have some 2000 cases per day,” he told reporters in Launceston.
“Our health system is prepared and expecting to deal with any eventuality.”
RHH staff furloughed
Up to 40 staff at the Royal Hobart Hospital have been furloughed after testing positive or being identified as close contacts, placing further pressure on its workforce amid others taking leave during the holiday period.
State Health Commander Kathrine Morgan-Wicks says there is no evidence of COVID-19 transmission in any state hospitals.
To cope with absent staff, outpatient activity will be reduced and the scheduled resumption of normal surgery levels from Sunday is now under review.
“These measures are being implemented at the RHH site only. Other sites, including regional hospitals and community health centres remain as business as usual,” Ms Morgan-Wicks said.
Opposition Leader Rebecca White says the government’s claim the hospital system can cope ignores the thousands of people whose care could be disrupted, and the Tasmanian Greens are urging Premier Peter Gutwein to reconsider his strategy.
‘Not a time for panic’
While acknowledging some hospitality businesses have closed due to contact tracing-related staff shortages, Tourism Industry Council Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin insists more border disruption is not the answer.
“It is not a time for panic, or reactive responses like slamming the borders shut again,” he said.
There are currently three cases in hospital across the state, with one being treated specifically for COVID-19 and two positive patients for other conditions. No one is in intensive care or on a ventilator.
Meanwhile, Mr Rockliff confirmed a positive case on King Island, off the northwest coast of Tasmania.