Defence waited 42 hours to reveal COVID-19 diagnosis

Defence took 42 hours to tell the public one of its officers had been diagnosed with COVID-19, prompting warnings authorities must be more open with information during the growing coronavirus crisis.

The outbreak claimed a third life on Sunday, with an 82-year-old man who fell ill with the virus at Dorothy Henderson Lodge in Macquarie Park dying in hospital.

His death was confirmed as authorities revealed more cases of the disease - including a man who presented to St Vincent's Hospital emergency department on Friday - had taken the state's toll to 40.

Two Defence workers have been infected, including the Navy officer diagnosed at 5pm on Friday and a second officer aged in his 40s, who received a positive test result Saturday night and had flown to Canberra for a meeting at Defence headquarters while he could have been infectious.

An 82-year-old resident at BaptistCare Dorothy Henderson Lodge died from COVID-19 on Sunday. Picture: AAP
An 82-year-old resident at BaptistCare Dorothy Henderson Lodge died from COVID-19 on Sunday. Picture: AAP


While the two cases were added to a list made public on the day they were diagnosed, Defence waited 42 hours in the first case and 16 hours in the second to notify the public their workers were ill.

The public was alerted at 11.30am on Sunday. The man in his 40s is a family member of a confirmed coronavirus case in the outbreak around Ryde.

He was not aware of his connection to a sick family member at the time he visited Canberra on February 28.

On Sunday, St Vincent's Hospital was searching for patients who may have been exposed to the coronavirus after a man who presented to the hospital was diagnosed with COVID-19.

The man in his 70s - who presented to the ED on Friday - has not recently travelled overseas and the source of his infection is not known.

The federal government and NSW Health are now under pressure to be more transparent about new coronavirus cases.

NSW Health has refused to reveal the locations of people who test positive.

ANU infectious diseases expert Associate Professor Sanjaya Senanayake.
ANU infectious diseases expert Associate Professor Sanjaya Senanayake.

Australian National University infectious diseases expert Associate Professor Sanjaya Senanayake called for authorities to be transparent.

"If you think your government and the authorities are being open with you and updating you it just makes you feel better even if the news isn't particularly good," he said.

He said Australia should instead consider adopting the methods used by South Korean authorities - where there are more than 7000 cases - of sending detailed alerts about where a patient had been and what they had been doing.

A NSW Health spokeswoman said they were acting in line with national protocols by not publishing where patients were from.

"As has been occurring since the outbreak of COVID-19 … NSW Health promptly notifies the public of any locations, including on public transport, where there has been a risk of infection," a spokeswoman said.

"The release of unnecessary detail may dissuade people coming forward for testing."

 

 

Labor's health spokesman Ryan Park said communities needed more information.

"This information doesn't need to be secretive, we don't need to know an individual's details but surely it's important to let local residents know what is happening in their local neighbourhood," he said.

NSW upper house One Nation MP Mark Latham said people had "a better chance to monitor their own health" and get tested if they had access to more information.

 



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