Top doc apologises for spreading dinner party rumour

AUSTRALIA'S top doctor has apologised to Tasmanian health care workers for comments he made publicly, about a rumour of an "illegal dinner party" amid a coronavirus outbreak in the state's North West.

Professor Brendan Murphy made the revelation on April 14 when speaking to a New Zealand committee on coronavirus, in a public briefing which was broadcast online as well as on television in that country.

"You have to be prepared to deal with further outbreaks," he said at the time.

"We thought we were doing really well then in the last week we had a cluster of 49 cases in a hospital in Tasmania just over the weekend. Most of them went to an illegal dinner party of medical workers."

The comments made national headlines and Prof Murphy backtracked from them later that day.

Tasmanian health officials have repeatedly said the contact tracing carried out during the outbreak investigation had not identified the rumoured dinner party had ever occurred.

And a police investigation into the allegation - ordered by Premier Peter Gutwein after Prof Murphy's comments - found no evidence of the gathering either.

The findings of the police probe were made public on Monday.

After the Mercury contacted the Federal Health Department about the matter, Professor Murphy issued an apology to the health care workers:

"I apologise to Tasmanian health workers for my comments, and welcome the positive outcome of the investigation,'' he said.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy at a press conference at the Department of Health in Canberra, Monday, April 27, 2019. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)
Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy at a press conference at the Department of Health in Canberra, Monday, April 27, 2019. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Mr Gutwein said while he was not comfortable with Prof Murphy's public comments about the rumour, he had provided "exemplary leadership" throughout the COVID-19 situation.

"He has led the chief medical officers and directors of public health from across all of the states and territories and I think it's a credit to him and the Prime Minister in terms of some of the decisions that have been made,'' Mr Gutwein said.

"When you compare Australia to the rest of the world, we are light years in front of them in terms of the havoc that has been wreaked upon other countries."

Premier Peter Gutwein at the daily Tasmanian Government COVID update. Picture: RICHARD JUPE
Premier Peter Gutwein at the daily Tasmanian Government COVID update. Picture: RICHARD JUPE

Mr Gutwein thanked health workers on the North West Coast for their dedication during unprecedented times.

"I know that many of them have gone above and beyond and it's been very difficult for them and their families and I thank them for their efforts,'' he said.

Originally published as Top doc apologises for spreading dinner party rumour


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