Health Minister ‘deeply sorry’ over COVID-19 death error

The Health Minister has apologised to the family of a Central Queensland man suspected of dying from COVID-19, after a post mortem confirmed he did not have the virus.

It comes as Queensland records one new case overnight.

A 41-year-old Gold Coast woman has tested positive to COVID-19 after travelling through Africa.


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The woman was showing symptoms on the plane home, with other passengers being monitored.

Health Minister Steven Miles has today defended the actions of health officials over the death of 30-year-old Nathan Turner in the town of Blackwater.

Mr Turner was thought to have been the country’s youngest person to die from COVID-19, but the coroner has now revealed his death was not coronavirus-related.

His death sparked a major response in Blackwater amid fears the town was facing a widespread outbreak.

“We have to treat every positive test as though it is a positive case, however, I would like to personally apologise to his partner and his family for any distress that our actions in responding rapidly have caused them,” Mr Miles said.

“The loss of any life, particularly a life so young is incredibly sad, I know it’s been incredibly distressing for them and to have to grieve under these circumstances, under this level of scrutiny, in some cases in quarantine, has only compounded that tragedy and their grief and to them I am so deeply sorry.”

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young says at this stage the Coroner is still not sure what caused Mr Turner’s death.

She’s also defended the actions of Queensland Health and says the response at the time was the right one.

“We received a positive test that was confirmed that night after he had died, it was a post mortem test and it was done because his partner said that he had four weeks of flu like symptoms, so based on that, although we knew there were no active cases that we were aware of in Blackwater, a decision was made to rapidly respond,” Dr Young said.

“I did ask for a second test to be done that night which was also done post mortem, which makes it difficult to do the test, and it was sent to Rockhampton to be tested urgently that night.

“It came back as invalid because the test was contaminated with blood so therefore the result was invalid, so i had one positive test in a gentleman with a four week history of a flu like illness.”

Dr Young says subsequent tests were done to try and work out the cause of his flu-like symptoms but none of those were able to shed any light.

“There are two potential answers here, one is that it was a false positive, the other is that it was a true positive and we won’t know which it was , but I am confident about the actions that were taken on that night to protect the community of Blackwater.”

Dr Young has also thanked the people of Blackwater for their “tremendous” response, after 605 people in the town came forward to get tested, while several close contacts of Mr Turner were forced to go into quarantine.

Mr Miles says he’s very confident the steps Dr Young took were “entirely appropriate” in the circumstances.

“It is Queensland’s very cautious approach that has kept Queenslanders safe throughout this pandemic and I have great faith in the decisions the Chief Health Officer has taken throughout this case.”

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