Health services return after Tas outbreak

Hospital services closed by COVID-19 in northwest Tasmania will soon return to regular operations.
Hospital services closed by COVID-19 in northwest Tasmania will soon return to regular operations.

Hospital services forced offline by a deadly coronavirus outbreak in northwest Tasmania will soon return to regular operations.

The North West Regional Hospital and its private counterpart in Burnie shut in mid-April after dozens of healthcare workers and patients there tested positive.

The state government had announced the facilities would reopen fully on Thursday but that has been pushed back by a day.

The emergency department at the Mersey Community Hospital at Latrobe in the northwest, where many patients were transferred after the outbreak, will reopen at the end of the month.

It is contingent on a deep cleaning of high-risk areas, including the ED, as patients leave, Health Minister Sarah Courtney said on Thursday.

About two-thirds of the state's 225 cases have been linked to the outbreak, which peaked around Easter, and 12 of 13 virus deaths occurred in the northwest.

No new cases were recorded on Thursday, for the seventh day in a row.

The state is eyeing the imminent reopening of cafes and restaurants and on Monday will move to stage one of a plan out of restrictions.

Gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed in public while the same number will be permitted at reopened playgrounds, eateries and libraries.

Ms Courtney said this doesn't mean free rein, with strict social distancing measures to remain in place.

"I'd ask Tasmanians to use common sense. We have come off a very challenging time," she said.

"Comply with these measures, we have them for your safety. We don't want to see a second wave. We know that can be deadly, devastating."

The state has now tested more than 20,400 people and has just 25 active cases.

Australian Associated Press