‘Heart racing’: COVID party accused speaks, but no apology

 

Health officials have made an embarrassing backdown after they were forced to clarify that a COVID-positive Moreton Bay Region man had not hosted a party of 25 people as he awaited his test results.

As authorities said there had actually been only five other people at the Strathpine man's home, Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young was unable to rule out a future lockdown in response to the latest cluster.

In an information bungle, officials had to back-pedal from a Queensland Health media release sent on Saturday that claimed the man had hosted a gathering of "around 25 people", which they labelled a "party", in the time between being instructed to isolate and getting his positive test result.

Instead, they yesterday said there were only five additional people at the home - which included four of his housemates - and no party was held, with police saying there was no evidence of an offence.

But late yesterday police clarified that people from outside the residence were not involved, as they finalised their inquiries.

 

Health Minister Yvette D'Ath faces the media yesterday as Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young looks on. Picture: John Gass
Health Minister Yvette D'Ath faces the media yesterday as Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young looks on. Picture: John Gass

 

The man at the centre of the mix-up, Lachlan Simpson, last night spoke to Nine News to clear his name.

"My heart's been racing for the last 24 hours," he said.

"I didn't have a party with 25 people."

Mr Simpson said believed he knew how health authorities got it wrong.

"I told them that I had a gathering two weeks prior to me getting tested and somehow they've taken that day and moved it forward to Friday," he said.

"We went on a pub crawl the next day (after the gathering two weeks ago) but I think at that point I had no symptoms at all."

Health Minister Yvette D'Ath did not apologise to the man yesterday when asked if she would like to, and was unable to explain how incorrect information was released.

"That is the information that I was briefed on at the time," she said.

"I understand that the health officials who originally spoke to this gentleman - they say that that's what they understood he had told them.

"I understand that as time has gone on - and overnight there has been further investigation, independent investigations from what the gentleman has said.

 

 

"Whether it was a misunderstanding at the time, or what it was, I can't tell you."

Ms D'Ath still maintained it had been important information that health officials had put out based on "the facts we had at the time", and said she had only been updated with the correct information yesterday morning.

"Because if we hadn't, and that had gone out in some other way, then we wouldn't be transparent about what we knew," she said.

When asked if she wanted to apologise to the man, Ms D'Ath said: "It is extremely unfortunate that what has been discovered over the last 24 hours - that it wasn't 25 people."

"I am very pleased that the information has shown that we don't have 25 people … and it's contained to predominantly the housemates."

Health officials announced on Saturday that the man, aged in his 20s, had tested positive to the virus and was now one of three cases believed to be linked to the same cluster, after a 26-year-old Stafford man initially tested positive on Thursday.

Ms D'Ath said she believed that of the five people officials said were at the house while the man was waiting for his result, four of them were housemates - while officials were investigating whether a fifth person had even entered the house or had any contact with the infected man.

 

Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski at the media conference as Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young looks on. Picture: John Gass
Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski at the media conference as Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young looks on. Picture: John Gass

 

But police last night released a statement saying people from outside the residence "were not involved".

"Police investigators have not found any evidence to warrant action being taken against a man following reports of a house party involving people in quarantine at Strathpine," the statement said.

"Police conducted inquiries into the allegations but are satisfied the occupants of the house did not breach the health directions, and people from outside the residence were not involved.

"Inquiries into this matter are now finalised."

A Queensland Health spokesman yesterday said they acted on the best information they "have at the time".

"Yesterday (Saturday) we were provided with information indicating that a party had taken place at the residence of a person meant to be in isolation awaiting COVID-19 test results," he said.

"Given this scenario presents a very serious risk, it was critical that we acted quickly and informed the community.

"However, further investigations overnight have (brought) to light new information showing this wasn't the case. We were informed all contacts of the residence were in quarantine."

 

A woman receives a COVID-19 test at a drive-through clinic in Brisbane's Bowen Hills yesterday. Picture: John Gass
A woman receives a COVID-19 test at a drive-through clinic in Brisbane's Bowen Hills yesterday. Picture: John Gass

 

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young wouldn't rule out a future lockdown yesterday as health officials deal with the latest cluster. She encouraged people to wear masks indoors as she urged Queenslanders to adhere to the existing COVID restrictions.

Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said it was "really inflammatory in some ways" to describe the people at the man's home as a party - after Queensland Health had described it as such the night before.

"There were people present there, a number of which were quite entitled to be there," Mr Gollschewski said.

"Do you say that you have five of your housemates there or four of your housemates there that you're having a party or gathering? I don't think so."

Opposition Leader David Crisafulli yesterday accused the government of "clumsy communication" over the past fortnight.

"Openness, transparency and consistency are the basic hallmarks of any good government," he said.

"We owe it to the community not to be rushing to conclusions as the worst thing we can do is pour fuel on the mixed messages coming from the government."

 

Originally published as No apology as COVID 'party man' falsely accused

 



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