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Fines issued as Melbourne protesters defy restrictions; Ruby Princess crew member diagnosed with tuberculosis; Australians invited to travel to Greece; US urged to reconsider WHO cuts


Belgium’s Prince Joachim has tested positive for the coronavirus after he attended a social gathering in the Spanish city of Cordoba that allegedly broke lockdown rules, the royal family and police say.

The Belgian royal household confirmed to EFE that the prince, the nephew of Belgian King Philippe, travelled aboard a commercial flight on 24 May with permission to enter Spain given his business interests in the country.

He attended a gathering of people and now must quarantine himself in Spain after testing positive for COVID-19.

Prince Joachim stands during the Military Oath Taking Ceremony at the Base Navale Zeebrugge on March 5,2012 in Zeebrugge,Belgium. (Getty)

Belgian media say the 28-year-old has been in a long-term relationship with Spanish citizen Victoria Ortiz Martinez-Sagrera.

The news emerged after Spanish police said they were investigating whether a party in the Andalusian city that was allegedly attended by the Belgian prince breached the lockdown rules.

The 27 people who attended the party, almost triple the maximum of 10 people allowed as part of Spain’s easing of the lockdown, have been told to self-quarantine.

The attendees could face fines between €600 – €10,000 ($1000 – $16,660), according to the extraordinary laws in force in Spain to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak.

Joachim, son of Prince Lorenz, is ninth-in-line to the Belgian throne.

The coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 27,000 people in Spain.

Prince Lorenz with two of his children Prince Joachim and Princess Luise Maria of Belgium attend the 80th birthday celebrations of Belgian Queen Paola on June 29, 2017 in Waterloo, Belgium (Getty)



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Coronavirus-hit Ruby Princess passengers contacted about crew member with tuberculosis


Passengers onboard the coronavirus-afflicted Ruby Princess have been issued another health warning after a crew member was diagnosed with tuberculosis this week.

NSW Health said the male crew member was being treated in Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

The crew member was diagnosed weeks after passengers disembarked from the cruise on March 19 — it would later become linked to more than 700 COVID-19 cases.

A letter, penned by Assistant Director of Communicable Diseases Christine Selvey, was sent out today and told passengers they were at a very low risk of infection.

“There is no reason to believe you are at increased risk of contracting tuberculosis from being on the cruise ship,” it said.

“Tuberculosis is spread from a person with active disease after close and prolonged contact with that person, rather than casual exposure.”

An expert panel of tuberculosis met yesterday after the man was diagnosed a few days ago.

“At this time, we do not think passengers need to be concerned about their risk of infection,” said Greg Fox, NSW Director of Tuberculosis Services at Sydney Local Health.

Professor Fox said health authorities were contacting people who had prolonged contact with the crew member and were screening them for the disease.

He said symptoms included prolonged cough, fever or weight loss over a period of weeks or months.

“It’s quite different to COVID, which is a much more acute respiratory illness,” he said.

“It’s possible the patient was contagious maybe one month before they developed symptoms … it is possible that they were infections during the time they were on the cruise.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tuberculosis killed about 1.5 million people worldwide in 2018 and is one of the top 10 causes of death.

The disease most often affects the lungs and is spread when infected people cough, sneeze or spit.

NSW Health said that the people who may be at risk of infection include some hospital staff, roommates, close friends and workmates.

The cruise has been linked to at least 22 deaths and is the subject of both a criminal investigation and a Special Commission of Inquiry.

The diagnosis comes as NSW again recorded zero new COVID-19 infections overnight, for the first time in more than two weeks.

More than 9,400 people were tested in the 24 hours up to 8:00pm last night and the total number of infections in the state remained at 3,092.

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Coronavirus Australia live news: Queensland records new case with links to Ruby Princess, Tourism Minister hits out at Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk over borders


Oil and gas executive to co-chair NT economic reconstruction commission

Andrew Liveris. Image: Supplied

 

Darwin-born oil and gas executive Andrew Liveris will co-chair the Northern Territory’s Economic Reconstruction Commission.

 

Mr Liveris is the Deputy Chairman of Worley, the world’s largest engineering consultancy for the oil and gas industry and has previously advocated for Dow Chemical to establish a plant in Darwin.

   

In a leaked report to the Prime Minister from the National Coordination Commission last week, he advocated for relaxation of fracking regulations to allow for more rapid extraction in the Beetaloo gas basin south of Darwin, and a manufacturing hub for the city.

 

Delivering the announcement, NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner thanked Mr Liveris for agreeing to add the commission to his busy schedule.

 

Mr Liveris has provided advice on manufacturing to US President Donald Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama.

   

“He’s helped the President make things in America, he’s helping the Prime Minister make things here in Australia, and I want him to help us make things in the Territory,” Mr Gunner said.

 

Mr Liveris will be joined as co-chair by former Labor Chief Minister Paul Henderson who lives in the Northern Territory and was Chief Minister when the Inpex gas project started in Darwin.

 

By Rick Hind



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Q+A: Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews issues coronavirus warning, Gladys Berejiklian battles over Ruby Princess


Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has used his appearance on Q+A’s premiers special to issue a warning to Australia that the coronavirus crisis is far from over.

With the nation easing social-distancing restrictions across all states, Mr Andrews suggested Australians must make sure they continue to take things seriously, lest the nation face a similar problem to the former poster-child of how to handle COVID-19, Singapore.

Speaking on the show that also included NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Mr Andrews insisted Australia must be careful to continue to follow guidelines laid out by politicians.

“Compliance with the new rules will be very, very important,” Mr Andrews said in response to a viewer questioning about whether social-distancing measures were still important.

“This is not over. There’s a long way to run. If we don’t follow the rules over May and into June, we’ll give back all the great progress that we’ve made.

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Mr Andrews also took aim at people who were protesting against social-distancing measures in Victoria on Sunday and suggested they take a look at Europe and the damage people not following social-distancing restrictions has done there.

He was also unhappy that police officers were injured in scenes that saw three protesters charged with assaulting police.

“They were ugly scenes yesterday and I always support people’s right to peacefully protest but there wasn’t much peaceful about it,” Mr Andrews said of the protest, which he described as illegitimate.

“I think some of the protest was about lockdown measures … but this pandemic is very real.

“If you don’t think the Australian experience is something that you should trust, if you need to look further afield, turn your TV on and have a look at what’s happening in Europe and America.

Throughout the pandemic the Victorian leader has been at loggerheads with Prime Minister Scott Morrison over the opening of schools — Mr Morrison has been adamant children should be at school — while Mr Andrews was quick to shut schools in his state, and unlike other states they have not reopened.

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The move was something he stood by on Q+A despite being grilled by host Hamish Macdonald as to why kids in Victoria should continue to stay at home while students in NSW were back at school.

Mr Andrews responded that his state took its position because he thought it was in the best interests of everyone, including teachers, students and parents.

However, that response did not seem to be good enough for the host, who continued to ask him what the difference was between Victoria and NSW.

“We will make announcements very soon about a staged, staggered return back to face-to-face teaching,” Mr Andrews said.

We were clear with parents in order to stop the spread of the virus: plan for the entirety of term two to be from home.”

Still, Macdonald pushed on, asking for a date, but Mr Andrews was having none of it.

“We’re very close. There’s details that have to be settled about the nature of that staggered return. We can confirm tonight that we will have our kids back to face-to-face learning before the end of term two.”

Viewer attacks Berejiklian over Ruby Princess saga

While Mr Andrews issued a warning, it was Ms Berejiklian who arguably had the most difficult night of any of the premiers, due to a viewer who sent in a video question about the NSW Government’s handling of the Ruby Princess case.

Olympia Kwitkowski from Salisbury in Queensland asked why anyone should take advice from Ms Berejiklian or her Government after their handling of the Ruby Princess cruise ship, which resulted in hundreds of coronavirus cases and more than one fifth of Australia’s coronavirus death toll.

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Ms Berejiklian was defiant in her response.

“Well, you’re welcome to listen to your Premier and take her advice,” the NSW Premier offered up, before being pressed on the issue by Macdonald, who insisted a lot of Australians across the country had asked questions about the NSW Government’s handling of the issue.

He then pressed on asking: “At what point is your Government going to take political accountability?”

Ms Berejiklian insisted her Government had done so.

“From day one, I’ve stood up, as have ever everybody in my Government, and said a number of authorities could have and should have done better,” Ms Berejiklian said.

A picture of a huge cruise ship — the infamous Ruby Princess — at what looks like an industrial dock.
The Ruby Princess cruise ship case cluster continues to dog the NSW Premier.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

The NSW Premier also said “border protection is not something normally the states would be involved in” in response to that question, adding: “We have to allow the commission of inquiry to do its work.”

As she waits on that report, Ms Berejiklian said her Government would learn from it but admitted she “can’t promise there won’t be other mistakes into the future” when it comes to how NSW handles their response.

Palaszczuk ‘didn’t sleep for weeks’

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk admitted to having had several sleepless nights when the pandemic first hit Queensland in January.

“The initial modelling we had was if we didn’t flatten the curve, in Queensland there could have been 37,000 people who lost their lives.”

The Queensland Premier also said she was fearful, like Mr Andrews, of what a second wave of the virus could do in Australia.

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“We know at any time we could be susceptible for another outbreak. We could have a second wave, you only have to look at what’s happening in the US,” she said.

“Thank God we all live in Australia.”

However, for now Ms Palaszczuk hopes Queensland, where tourism is such a big part of the economy, will have people travelling around the state soon.

“Hopefully by June and July, we’ll be able to have people travelling around Queensland,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“But it might be a little bit longer before we see our southerners come back to Queensland.”

Asked when that could happen, she was not sure but said that it could be on a state-by-state basis.

“We’ll be reviewing that at the end of each month because there’s thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs. A $20 billion economy to Queensland,” she said.

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Government to pay Aspen Medical $57m for Newmarch House and Ruby Princess coronavirus work | Australia news


The federal government will pay Aspen Medical – the company contracted to contain Covid-19 outbreaks at Newmarch House and on the Ruby Princess – more than $57m for Covid-19 outbreak response services.

According to government tender listings, the Department of Health has agreed to pay the Canberra-based Aspen Medical $57,794,779 to provide 35 surge staff to help contain the outbreak at the Newmarch House aged-care facility in Sydney, and for about 30 clinicians who helped screen and test Ruby Princess crew members stranded at Port Kembla in April.The two surge healthcare operations are now being examined by a New South Wales parliamentary inquiry.

The contracts also include other services, including paying Aspen Medical to consult with the Australian Border Force over how to manage the Ruby Princess situation prior to its docking at Port Kembla, and to provide other testing and personal protective equipment.

The exact cost of each Aspen service remains unclear.

The government’s contracts with Aspen Medical have prompted concern from the federal opposition. The topic was also raised during Thursday’s session of the NSW parliamentary inquiry into the Covid-19 response following the Guardian’s report that the operator sent two of its clinicians who had boarded the Ruby Princess into Newmarch House just days later.

Aspen has said both of the staff tested negative to Covid-19 before their shift at Newmarch House on 25 April, and were “experienced clinicians with significant experience in infection control and were in full PPE at all times whilst at Newmarch House”.

The provider confirmed the movement of its staff between outbreaks on Wednesday – two days after it complied with a request to stand down a member of its surge staff in response to Newmarch’s operator, Anglicare, accusing the carer of “breaches of the PPE [Personal Protective Equipment] protocol”.

In relation to the carer, Aspen has said it is waiting to receive an incident report from Anglicare about the PPE breaches, after which it will investigate the allegations internally and “provide our staff member with a fair and balanced hearing”.

The Guardian does not suggest that the two Aspen clinicians who worked on both the Ruby Princess and at Newmarch House breached any PPE protocol, nor that they were personally responsible for any further spread of the virus at the aged-care facility.

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After a part-time carer at the aged-care home worked six shifts with mild symptoms before being diagnosed with coronavirus on 11 April, more than 60 staff and residents are now Covid-19 positive, with the 16th resident death announced on Tuesday.

Aspen has been providing support to Newmarch House since 20 April.

At the NSW parliamentary inquiry into the state’s Covid-19 response on Thursday, the Labor MP Penny Sharpe raised concern that staff from Aspen Medical’s Ruby Princess response were “allowed to walk into Newmarch”, and a subsequent complaint of PPE breaches by an Aspen carer.

The NSW chief health officer, Kerry Chant, said that Aspen Medical did not tell NSW Health that the two clinicians had worked on the Ruby Princess before being sent to Newmarch House.

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“There is no barrier to healthcare staff who worked with Covid-positive patients attending other places providing there is no breach in their PPE.”

She also said she would follow up on whether “they somehow introduced the virus into the facility”.

The NSW health minister, Brad Hazzard, said “NSW Health has no control over those matters” and that the Aspen contract was the responsibility of the federal government.

Defending the federal government’s contracts, the aged care minister, Richard Colbeck, told the Guardian: “Aspen Medical was engaged because it has national and international experience with urgent and complex health system response and retrieval arrangements, and was able to demonstrate an ability to provide suitably experienced staff and response capacity.”

However, the opposition aged care spokeswoman, Julie Collins, told the Guardian that Labor still held concerns “about how the government’s ‘surge workforce’ [Aspen] would work”.

“We will continue to ask questions of the government about how this workforce is operating, how it is being contracted and when it is being deployed,” she said.

On Wednesday, the aged care regulator threatened to revoke the operating licence of Newmarch House over what it views as an “immediate and severe risk to the health, safety and wellbeing” of residents.

Anglicare was given until 5pm on Thursday to agree to a list of requirements, which included demonstrating it has addressed key shortcomings in safety, improving its communication with residents’ families, and allowing the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, the sector’s regulator, to appoint an independent adviser to the facility for three months.

On Thursday evening, Anglicare announced Andrew Kinkade, an administrator at Catholic Healthcare, had been appointed as the independent adviser.

Hours before ACQSC sent the notice to Anglicare, the aged care royal commissioners Tony Pagone and Lynelle Briggs announced that their inquiry would specifically look at “the lessons from what has happened at Newmarch House”.



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Cedar Meats COVID-19 outbreak grows as opposition likens it to ‘Daniel Andrews’ own Ruby Princess’


Asked whether the comparison to Ruby Princess – the cruise ship linked to 21 deaths in Australia – was excessive, Mr O’Brien said both were due to “government incompetence”.

“Ruby Princess should never have happened. Frankly coronavirus at Cedar Meats should never have happened,” he said.

The first case

A cluster at the abattoir was first suspected by the health department on April 24, but the government has since revealed an initial case was diagnosed more than a month ago, on April 2.

At the time, the health department did not consider the Brooklyn meatworks to be an exposure site because the infected person said he was not at work for “weeks” beforehand.

The federal government is now investigating whether Commonwealth inspectors may have unknowingly spread the virus to other facilities after inspecting the abattoir in April.

“We can only go on what we’re told,” Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told radio station 3AW on Wednesday morning, adding that he wasn’t aware if the abattoir was asked about the worker’s attendance.

“If you or I get diagnosed with COVID and say we normally go to Flinders Street Station on Friday but haven’t been there for the last month, we wouldn’t put that down as a site of exposure.”

Dr Sutton said he did not believe the worker diagnosed in early April was the source of the second and third cases. He said Cedar Meats may never have been informed about the initial infection because the worker said he had not been to work.

“I have been told that that early case wasn’t part of the cluster – wasn’t on site,” he said. “We’ll really struggle to understand who introduced it and when.”

Dr Sutton said the department would be reviewing its policy not to name affected businesses in order to protect public confidence in the department, given they would likely be named anyway.

He said the claim the worker infected in early April attended the abattoir was a “rumour” that required further investigation.

How the cluster emerged

The Victorian government is facing criticism over a lack of transparency, after initially declining to name the abattoir and waiting until late on Tuesday evening, May 5, to release a timeline of the cluster.

A second and third person linked to the cluster were diagnosed on April 24 and 25, but the health department did not advise the company to test all 350 workers until April 30 – when even more cases were discovered.

The 49 cases of coronavirus linked to the Brooklyn abattoir now include at least three close contacts of workers.

Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas has defended the government’s handling of the outbreak.

“There is an enormous amount of checking and tracking that needs to be done in this process,” Mr Pallas said.

“What is going on here is outstanding, world-leading tracking and checking strategies and I think the chief health officer and his staff deserve commendation for it.”

The federal government is investigating whether Commonwealth officials who inspected Cedar Meats may have unknowingly spread the virus to abattoirs they subsequently inspected.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said he wanted to find out when Victorian officials informed his department about the outbreak.

None of the inspectors have tested positive, but Mr Littleproud said the situation was fluid.

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“Potentially the Commonwealth personnel who were in the abattoir and then moved to another one potentially could have spread the virus,” he said.

“Before we start pointing fingers I think we need to understand what’s happened and learn from it.”

Sally McManus, secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, said the western suburbs meatworks cluster “clearly” wasn’t handled appropriately and also made comparisons to the Ruby Princess debacle.

Ms McManus said the entire workforce should have been tested once the first worker was diagnosed in early April.

“This is a bad situation,” she told radio station 3AW. “Let’s learn from it and never do it again.”

She said the meat industry, where many workplace areas are refrigerated, was susceptible to an outbreak.

Ms McManus claimed the first staff member to test positive worked for a labour-hire company, which knew about the worker’s infection but believed they were not infectious at the time they attended work.

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Ruby Princess inquiry chief’s questioning of crying health worker was ‘out of line’, PM says


Prime Minister Scott Morrison says “aggressive” questioning that reduced a NSW Health employee to tears at the Ruby Princess inquiry was “out of line”.

Epidemiologist Kelly-Ann Ressler, who had direct contact with the cruise ship before it docked in Sydney, was yesterday questioned for hours on the department’s precautionary procedures.

At one stage she broke down while admitting it was “unsatisfactory” to have tested more people on board for influenza than COVID-19, despite signs of illness.

“If we could do it again it would be very different,” Ms Ressler said through tears.

Commissioner Bret Walker SC asked Ms Ressler why he should not conclude there had been a “reprehensible failure” from the state’s health department.

Mr Morrison today told radio station 2GB he found the evidence distressing and public health workers were “doing their best”.

“They have been working day and night for months and months and months,” Mr Morrison said.

“I know we’ve got to get to the truth on this sort of stuff, but my first blush on that one — and that’s not to call into question the independence of the royal commission or anything like that — but I found that a bit out of line.”

Mr Morrison said Ms Ressler should be thanked for her work.

“To see her reduced to that, under that sort of aggressive line of questioning, you’ve got to get the balance right on this one and I would hope Mr Walker would reflect on that.”

Bret Walker questioning Kelly-Ann Ressler in the inquiry
The Prime Minister said Commissioner Bret Walker SC needed to reflect on his questioning.(ABC News)

The inquiry is probing the decisions made around the disembarkation of the ship’s 2,700 passengers in March despite the fact test results for COVID-19 were still yet to be returned.

Carnival Australia port agent Dobrila Tokovic today gave evidence that she found out the day before the ship arrived NSW Health officials would not board the vessel when it docked.

She said that was “in some ways” surprising.

“Just from my own experience, having 100 people unwell for a duration of a cruise would not stand out as a significant number,” she said.

Counsel assisting the inquiry Richard Beasley SC replied: “but that experience is almost entirely in a pre-COVID world”.

The Ruby Princess has been linked to nearly 700 coronavirus cases and at least 21 deaths, and is the country’s largest single source of infection.

The ship was given a rating of “low risk” by NSW Health based on a log of onboard illness that was 18 hours old by the time the vessel docked, the inquiry has heard.

Had the log been updated, the percentage of sick passengers and crew would have pushed it into a higher risk category and triggered more NSW Health intervention, including onboard assessments.

The inquiry is due to report by mid-August.

NSW Police are conducting a separate, criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the Ruby Princess’s arrival in Sydney.

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Former crew reveal coronavirus saga aboard the Ruby Princess



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PM says Ruby Princess evidence was ‘distressing’


Scott Morrison has described the tough questioning of the NSW health official who was reduced to tears under questioning over the Ruby Princess fiasco as “distressing” and “out of line”.

Warning health officials are “not perfect” he has urged the inquiry’s commissioner Bret Walker SC, who is leading the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Ruby Princess cruise ship fiasco, to reflect on this.

The cruise ship has become the largest single source of COVID-19 cases in Australia after its 2,700 passengers disembarked in Sydney on March 19.

It has so far been linked to more than 660 cases and 21 deaths.

RELATED: Follow the latest coronavirus updates

Epidemiologist Kelly-Anne Ressler sobbed in the witness box on Tuesday as she was asked if “reprehensible shortcoming” by the department allowed the cruise ship’s passengers to disembark in Sydney.

“Myself and my colleagues at the public health department were working very hard on this,” she said.

“We did what we could, and if we could do it again it would be very different.”

But Mr Morrison told 2GB radio today the questioning had overstepped the mark.

“I found those images … very distressing. Spare a thought also for those public health officials. They are all trying to do their best,’” he said.

“People are not perfect. I thank her for the great job she’s been seeking to do.

“I found that a bit out of line. I would hope Mr Walker would reflect on that.”

RELATED: Ruby Princess debacle ‘like the Wild West’

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said everyone had to take their share of responsibility.

“I have said from the start, that several authorities, federal and state should have stepped up,” she said.

“We have seen the consequences and what we can take from the findings when they come, are learnings for the future.

“I certainly want to get the bottom of it as does everybody else.”



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Australia coronavirus live: Queen wishes Australia well as Ruby Princess inquiry continues – latest updates | World news


I believe that Australia has a fair and decent welfare and safety net … The reality is that we want to get as many people off the unemployment lines and into a job, and we can do that through reforms in the recovery stage, namely around infrastructure tax, industrial relations deregulation skills …

Our spending through the coronavirus process has been consistent right along, it’s temporary, it’s targeted and proportionate, and it uses existing tax and transfer system.



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Ruby Princess-style inquiry needed into Newmarch House


These new infections forced Anglicare’s chief executive Grant Gillard to concede there had been “failings”. “The use of PPE [personal protective equipment] is foreign to a lot of people,” Gillard told the media. Central to infection control training is how to use PPE to protect yourself and prevent transmission. The use of PPE should not be “foreign” to staff in an aged care home, particularly during a pandemic.

The proper use of PPE not only protects the staff member from infection, but also prevents transmission of the virus.

Coronavirus has devastated Newmarch Aged Care home.

Coronavirus has devastated Newmarch Aged Care home.Credit:Kate Geraghty

The federal health department offered free infection control training to all staff who work in the aged care sector. Did Anglicare mandate staff to do this training?

Another failing was not transferring residents who tested positive to COVID-19 to hospital for treatment. Denying residents access to hospital treatment is an appalling breach of their human rights.

Some health professionals believe that residents with COVID-19 should be cared for in the aged care home rather than treated in hospital. In early April, a letter was sent to staff working in aged care homes in Hunter New England, advising them not to send residents with COVID-19 to hospital. The letters said elderly people suffering coronavirus like symptoms would be “turned away” from hospitals. Hunter New England later apologised for these unauthorised letters.

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When an outbreak of COVID-19 occurred in North West Regional Hospital and North West Private Hospital in Burnie, the hospitals were closed so they could be deep cleaned. Yet in Newmarch House, residents – both those who tested positive and negative – remained in the home. Not surprisingly, some families want to take their loved ones out of Newmarch House.

An inquiry is under way into the 21 deaths from COVID-19 via the Ruby Princess debacle. There needs to be a similar inquiry into the 16 deaths in Newmarch House. A public and transparent inquiry is necessary to prevent a similar tragedy happening in other aged care homes.

Dr Sarah Russell is the director of Aged Care Matters.



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