Travel warning over King Island outbreak

·2-min read

A coronavirus outbreak on remote King Island off Tasmania has prompted health authorities to warn against visiting the tourist hotspot unnecessarily.

The island, which has a population of about 1600 people, has recorded roughly 60 cases, with the figure expected to grow in coming days.

Tasmania's Public Health Director Mark Veitch said the outbreak was placing pressure on the island's essential services.

"While confirmed cases on the island are generally experiencing mild symptoms which can be managed in suitable premises, the fact that King Island has a relatively small population means that the outbreak places greater pressure on essential services," Mr Veitch said.

"Public Health Services is asking anyone who was planning to travel to King Island in the coming week to reconsider their need to travel."

Mr Veitch said travel plans may be disrupted due to businesses being affected by isolation requirements.

"People should only be travelling to King Island if it is absolutely necessary for them to do so," he said.

The outbreak stemmed from one positive case who attended several large events last week before becoming aware they were infectious.

The health department sent a testing team earlier this week to the island, which had not previously recorded a coronavirus infection.

"We knew that we would get COVID at some stage. It's a bit disconcerting that we've had so many all at once," King Island mayor Julie Arnold told AAP.

"As with the rest of Australia, we're just having to deal with it. For our small community, it's a large number."

Ms Arnold said the island's pharmacy was preparing a plan to deliver scripts and many cafes and restaurants had shifted to takeaway.

She said the community had ample access to tests and people were doing their best to quarantine when required.

"There would be a number of homes here where it would be difficult for people to use a separate bedroom and a separate bathroom," she said.

"But we can only do what we can do. A number of people are working around that, if they've got a caravan in the backyard, someone is in the caravan rather than the house."

Tasmania was virus-free when it reopened to mainland hotspots, including its two major tourism markets Victoria and NSW, on December 15.

Ms Arnold said she backed the state government's decision to drop border restrictions, saying King Island's tourism industry relied heavily on mainland Australia.

"To have done without those tourists for nearly two years has been phenomenally difficult. It had to be opened at some stage."

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