Special test will reveal source of Blackwater virus

AUTHORITIES will run a special test to see whether they can scientifically link the COVID-19 case of Nathan Turner to the Rockhampton nurse who illegally drove into the central Queensland mining town while sick.

The Courier-Mail understands authorities have access to a specialist test that can tell what generation of disease they are dealing with in a particular person.

It allows them to understand more about what strain they are dealing with, and whether it is related to an earlier case.

The Rockhampton nurse has told authorities she made the four-hour round trip into the community to view a sunset or sunrise a week after Mr Turner's symptoms began, and didn't get out of her car or interact with anyone.

However, it's understood her story is being viewed with a level of suspicion.

Queensland Health investigators are still investigating whether the woman has any links to Blackwater that might have seen her drive there, although reports she may have been visiting a family member have not been established.

Earlier it was revealed authorities were trying to unravel the nurse's bizarre story of the illegal 400km roadtrip

COVID-19 victim Nathan Turner was just 30 years old.
COVID-19 victim Nathan Turner was just 30 years old.

The body of a 30-year-old Nathan Turner was found by his partner at their Blackwater home about 4.30pm Tuesday when she returned from her job at the Fairbairn Bakery in what is shaping as one of the state's most mysterious cases.

Investigations are looking on whether the nurse - publicly chastised for working at the North Rockhampton Nursing Centre while sick, including after taking a COVID test - might be the source of his infection, with no other known cases in Blackwater.

Mr Turner had been off work from the Jellinbah mine since November with a complex medical condition, thought to relate to seizures and another respiratory condition.

He had not left the small, central Queensland mining town since February, and only tested positive to COVID-19 after his death, despite being sick for three weeks.

Paramedics who rushed to the scene could do nothing and are now in home isolation, along with three of the town's police officers, causing the closure of their station.

The man's partner, who has tested negative for COVID-19 but had symptoms, will be tested again and is also in home isolation.

It is understood the pair became engaged late last year.

Nathan Turner.
Nathan Turner.

The bakery she worked at is closed "indefinitely" after she had unwittingly gone to work sick.

The Courier-Mail understands the nurse who sparked the aged care scandal told authorities she drove to Blackwater by herself but did not get out of the car or interact with anyone in what would be a four-hour-long round trip with no specific purpose.

However, the date she gave for the drive in the second week of May is one week after the 30-year-old started exhibiting symptoms, causing confusion around whether she could be the source of his infection or not.

It's not believed the pair knew each other, but extensive contact tracing is underway.

A Queensland Health spokesman said no evidence had been provided to date that linked the two cases.

"But we will continue to assess all information relevant to any case," he said.

Keppel MP Brittany Lauga said the nurse, who is now under investigation by the Crime and Corruption Commission, had told contact tracers that she'd driven to Blackwater to "see a sunset".

Ms Lauga called for the woman to be fined for breaking travel restrictions for non-essential travel.

"It's irresponsible. It's against the law," she said.

"It doesn't make sense to anyone I've spoken to who lives in this region why you wouldn't get out of the car, go to the loo or anything and we rely on people being honest with their contact tracing."

A Queensland Health spokesman defended not earlier telling Blackwater residents of the infectious nurse's road trip into town, saying they had no information that warranted a public health alert for Blackwater.

"If our contact tracing efforts identify any risk to the broader community or we don't believe we can identity potential contacts, we issue a public health alert," he said.

The nurse broke health and travel orders to make the almost 400km Rockhampton to Blackwater round trip that was not for an essential purpose before testing positive for the virus.

She has earlier been publicly chastised by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for going to work on reception with symptoms and after taking a COVID-19 test before the result was known.

The shock news of the death was announced by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk just hours after the post-mortem positive test was returned.

"We extend our condolences and it's a timely reminder for all Queenslanders that this COVID is real, it's out there, and it has impacts on Queenslanders and in this case, we have lost another Queenslander today," she said.

Fever clinics in Blackwater and Emerald have been set up and anyone experiencing cold or flu symptoms across central Queensland are being urged to come forward for testing.

Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles urged "anyone in Queensland" to get tested as authorities try to zero in on other community transmission cases that may still be going under the radar.

"This message is particularly important for all the blokes out there," he said.

"I know that men sometimes fob off their illnesses, they don't go and get medical assistance, but it's incredibly important right now that anyone with symptoms goes and gets tested."

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said Mr Turner's death had been declared as a COVID-19-related death, but it would be up to the Coroner to decide the cause, taking into consideration his other health issues.


She said she was "of course" concerned and had four planes on standby - two in Townsville and two in Brisbane - to move any sick cases to Rockhampton or Brisbane.

"This is a brand new disease," Dr Young said.

"The world didn't know anything about it until late December, early January and we're still learning more about it every single day which is why we have to be very, very cautious in how we respond."

Originally published as Nurse's illegal roadtrip linked to Blackwater death