Australia’s top medical officer has apologised to health workers in Tasmania for speculating they attended an illegal dinner party and contributed to a coronavirus outbreak.
Professor Brendan Murphy made the claim about staff in the state’s northwest while giving evidence to a New Zealand parliamentary committee earlier this month.
He quickly walked back the comments after Tasmania Premier Peter Gutwein pointed out contract tracing had found no evidence of a such a gathering.
A subsequent state police investigation into the allegation found no evidence of a party.
Tasmania is expected to this week release a report into the northwest virus cluster, which accounts for about two-thirds of the state’s 218 cases.
Mr Gutwein has also pledged an independent investigation into the outbreak, which has shut Burnie’s private and public hospitals and forced tough social restrictions.
“I apologise to Tasmanian health workers for my comments, and welcome the positive outcome of the investigation,” Prof Murphy said in a statement on Wednesday.
Prof Murphy was speaking about Australia’s response to the global pandemic on April 14 when he brought up the outbreak in Tasmania.
“We thought we were doing really well in the last week and then we had a cluster of 49 cases in a hospital in Tasmania just over the weekend,” he said.
“Most of them went to an illegal dinner party of medical workers, we think.”
State Labor opposition leader Rebecca White has welcomed the apology.
“His comments at the time were reckless and really hurtful for workers up there,” she told ABC Radio.
Three northwest health workers on Tuesday became the latest of dozens in the region to test positive to COVID-19.
Ten of Tasmania’s 11 virus deaths have been in the northwest.
Australian Associated Press