Peter Dutton ‘very unlikely’ to have spread coronavirus at cabinet meeting, White House


“But I might have coughed you know three or four times so not anything more than sort of a tickle in the throat. And then a temperature and a fever was the most obvious thing, but no real joint pain either.”

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said that only those who had been around Mr Dutton within 24 hours before these symptoms appeared on Thursday need to self-isolate – recommendations which apply to anyone coming into contact with an infected person.

“If you’ve been in contact with them two or three days before they’re symptomatic they are very, very, very unlikely to be infectious so we don’t believe that you need to quarantine,” Dr Murphy said.

Despite this, Mr Dutton’s coronavirus test result sent shock waves around the world. A week before his diagnosis he took a trip to Washington where he spent time with US President Donald Trump’s daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump, Attorney General Bill Barr and officials from New Zealand and Britain.

Ms Trump has chosen to work from home as a precaution though she did not have any symptoms. Other visitors to the White House during Mr Dutton’s visit have also chosen to take this step, including British Security Minister James Brokenshire, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway and New Zealand’s Minister for Children Tracey Martin.

Mr Dutton said his office contacted the White House on Friday evening “just to give them the advice from our medical experts here”.

When Mr Dutton returned from the US he went to the University of Sunshine Coast’s Moreton Bay Campus opening on March 9, before flying to Sydney for a cabinet meeting the day after and later returning to Brisbane. The meeting had almost all members of cabinet in attendance, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Qantas passengers who sat near Mr Dutton on flights between Sydney and Brisbane will be contacted by the Queensland Department of Health.

Mr Morrison messaged heads of states and territories Friday evening to assure them he was not ill. He has decided not to self-isolate or be tested for coronavirus, in line with medical advice.

Mr Dutton said the medical advice had been “very clear” that his trip to the White House and Tuesday’s cabinet meeting posed no harm to those he was in contact with.

But opposition health spokesman Chris Bowen criticised the “mixed messaging” and “apparent inconsistency” from the government.

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“The public advice and guidance to people who have close contacts with a confirmed case says nothing about any 24-hour period, it simply says that anybody who has been in close contact should be self isolated,” he said during a press conference on Saturday.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said one of the government’s principles has been to follow the medical advice in policy, action and personally.

“Chris Bowen is playing a dangerous game in giving phoney medical opinions and ignoring the most experienced medical advice in the land,” Mr Hunt said in a tweet.

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