Panic appears to be growing in Melbourne where authorities are trying to track down 70 patients who saw a doctor prior to him being confirmed to have coronavirus.
The man, aged in his 70s and from Toorak, an inner-city suburb, was confirmed as Victoria’s eleventh confirmed case of COVID-19 by Health Minister Jenny Mikakos on Saturday.
She said he displayed “mild” symptoms on a flight from San Francisco in the United States to Melbourne, where he touched down on Saturday morning last week.
“He became unwell with a runny nose on an internal flight from Denver to San Francisco on February 27, US time, then flew from San Francisco to Melbourne on United Airlines flight 0060, arriving at approximately 9:30am Saturday the 29th of February,” she said.
The doctor consulted with approximately 70 patients from Monday, March 2 until Friday March 6 at The Toorak Clinic on Malvern Road.
The patients have been contacted through text message, the Health Minister confirmed, and the clinic is now closed.
All patients who saw the doctor have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days. The doctor also visited two patients at the MECWA Malvern Centre nursing home and the residents are being isolated in their rooms.
Victoria Health said it was working with the nursing home to provide supportive care for those residents.
The department is trying to obtain a flight log containing contact information for passengers who travelled to Australia on the same flight as the doctor, according to Nine News.
Ms Mikakos said she was “flabbergasted” the doctor continued showing up to work despite being ill.
“I'm absolutely flabbergasted that a doctor who has experienced flu-like symptoms has presented to work,” she said.
“I understand it was very mild symptoms - perhaps he didn't make the potential link - but we've now got 70 patients that have been contacted so it is incredibly important that all healthcare workers take this matter very seriously.”
However health authorities are optimistic that other than the medical clinic and nursing home, there were no other public exposure sites.
The public shared similar sentiments in posts to Twitter, expressing their frustration at the volume of people the medical expert undoubtedly came into contact with.
“A doctor a few suburbs over from me got coronavirus and while he was sick he saw 70 patients and now those patients have been in contact with hundreds of other people who have then been in contact with even more... watch this virus spread through Melbourne in the next two weeks,” one tweet read.
Some called for the doctor’s medical licence to be cancelled, while others praised him for putting his health on the line to treat his patients.
Someone suggested a travel ban be enforced for people entering Australia from the United States.
Travel bans are currently in place for people travelling from South Korea, China and Iran, while people flying in from Italy will undergo advanced screening for the virus before being allowed to enter Australia.
“The health minister is shocked a doctor would go to work with the flu. But all doctors do. Hospitals would shut down if all sick doctors didn't show up,” another tweet read as Toorak began trending on Saturday.
Six new coronavirus cases in NSW
In NSW, Health authorities are seeking to track down passengers on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha after a man in his 70s was among six new cases of the deadly virus diagnosed in the state.
There are now more than 60 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Australia, with 22 people being cleared.
The state government on Saturday announced the six new cases of coronavirus, bringing the NSW total number to 34.
All of the new cases were close contacts or family members of previously confirmed cases except for a male who contracted the virus after visiting Italy.
Meanwhile, four more Australians have been caught up in yet another cruise ship emergency, this time off the coast of California.
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