Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles and Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young addressing media amid growing anger over the handling of Blackwater’s suspected COVID-19 case.
Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles and Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young addressing media amid growing anger over the handling of Blackwater’s suspected COVID-19 case.

Health officials address Blackwater COVID-19 backlash

THE family of Blackwater man Nathan Turner, who was believed to have died from complications related to COVID-19, today received an apology from Queensland's highest ranking health officials.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles and Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young fronted the media early this morning to explain a negative COVID-19 test result from Mr Turner's autopsy amid growing anger over an apparent earlier misdiagnosis.

"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 this level of scrutiny," Mr Miles said.

OUTRAGE: Frustrations are growing over the handling of Blackwater man Nathan Turner’s suspected COVID-19 related death.
OUTRAGE: Frustrations are growing over the handling of Blackwater man Nathan Turner’s suspected COVID-19 related death.

The false positive was confirmed Monday night in a statement released by Dr Young.

Dr Young defended the state's rapid response, adding Mr Turner's initial post-mortem test results and flu-like symptoms in the weeks prior to his death warranted the action.

Mr Turner, 30, reportedly suffered serious underlying health issues before experiencing symptoms and was not tested while alive.

He tested positive after his death in Blackwater on May 27 which was the first reported case for the small town and as such became a priority case for Qld Health

"A decision was made to rapidly respond," Ms Young said. "I did ask for a second post-mortem test the same night. It came back invalid as the test was contaminated with blood."

Dr Young admitted there will never be a clear answer as to whether Mr Turner's first test was a true or false positive due to the test taking place after his death.

"When Mr Turner's body arrived in Brisbane a few days later, more tests were done. Unfortunately, we do know at that stage that the tests could be negative because the virus is denatured during that time," she said.

Subsequent post-mortem tests have since been conducted; however, no other flu-like pathogen returned a positive result.

"At this stage the coroner is not sure what the cause of death was, and the coroner is undertaking further testing to figure that out."

DISTRESS: An apology has been issued to Nathan Turner’s partner and his loved ones.
DISTRESS: An apology has been issued to Nathan Turner’s partner and his loved ones.

Deputy Premier Stevens Miles said he accepted the growing backlash over the government's response.

"I would prefer to be criticised for being too transparent, too honest and for acting too quickly rather than the alternative. It is our approach to treat every positive case as a positive and to react quickly."

"It is Queensland's very cautious approach that has kept Queenslanders safe throughout this pandemic. I have great faith in the decisions the Chief Health Officer has taken throughout this case," he said.

Over 600 Blackwater residents have been tested since news of Mr Turner's death broke late-last week. The town's sewage was also investigated to try and determine the source of his COVID-19 infection.

TREMENDOUS: Fever clinic at Blackwater Rodeo Grounds saw over 600 people tested following Mr Turner’s death last week.
TREMENDOUS: Fever clinic at Blackwater Rodeo Grounds saw over 600 people tested following Mr Turner’s death last week.

Dr Young commended the Blackwater community for their "tremendous response" throughout the ordeal.

"Close contacts who were put into quarantine have today been permitted to end their quarantine period early."

"I am confident about the actions that were taken that night to protect the community of Blackwater," she said.

One new case of coronavirus was confirmed overnight for the state after a 41-year-old woman returned to the Gold Coast from Africa.

It is believed she was infectious on the flight. Contact tracing is underway to ensure all other passengers also quarantine.

Five active cases remain in Queensland.



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