Nathan Turner was named Australia's youngest COVID-19 victim. Then his test came back negative.

Following his death on May 26, Nathan Turner was named Australia’s youngest COVID-19-related death.

His infection with the virus, announced by Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young, led to worry and apprehension within his small town community of Blackwater, in central Queensland.

Health authorities urged anyone with symptoms in the town, which has a population of about 5000, to be tested. They began contract tracing to figure out how the coronavirus had infected a man who had been home bound and unable to work since November, due to a “complicated” medical history.

His partner, whom he had only recently become engaged to, has had to grieve his death in isolation.

But on Monday night, health authorities confirmed Turner did not have COVID-19.

“The Coroner tonight advised that further tests have returned negative for COVID-19. He is yet to determine the man’s cause of death,” the state’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said in a statement.

Nathan Turner’s death.

nathan turner
Image: Facebook.

On May 26, Turner's fiancée returned to their home about 4.30pm, to find her husband-to-be unresponsive. She frantically called emergency services, but Turner was not able to be revived and was declared deceased at the scene.

Following his death, the 30-year-old posthumously tested positive for COVID-19, with health officials confirming the virus had made its way to a small town in central Queensland.

Turner had a "complicated" medical history and was not tested while alive because of the seriousness of his underlying condition.

The former coal miner had been home bound and unable to work since November, and had not travelled outside of Blackwater since February.

A false positive.

Turner initially tested positive for coronavirus after his death last week, but subsequent tests have confirmed he was not infected.

On Tuesday morning, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk apologised to Turner's family.

"You know I really want to say to the family that we're incredibly sorry that that has happened," the Premier said.

"To the family I know that is still grieving and I don't want them to be stressed anymore, I know it is a very tough time for them but we do know that the coroner made that finding yesterday and we accept that finding."

nathan turner
Image: Facebook.

Deputy Premier Stephen Miles also apologised. He defended the government's response, saying it had to put Blackwater on alert and test widely after the former miner's initial positive test.

But he said it was a regrettable outcome that the family had suffered unnecessarily, in light of "multiple" subsequent negative tests.

"Our ability to control this virus requires us to respond rapidly to every single positive test," the Deputy Premier and Health Minister told reporters on Tuesday.


"We have to treat every positive test as though it is a positive case.

"However, I would like to personally apologise to his partner and his family for any distress that our actions in responding rapidly has caused them. I know it's been incredibly distressing for them."

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said false positive tests for coronavirus were extremely rare.

She said the results were compromised by the fact that one sample from Mr Turner was contaminated with excessive blood from the post-mortem process.

"There are two potential answers here. One is that it was a false positive. The other is that it was a true positive," Dr Young said.

"And we won't know which it was, but I am confident about the actions that were taken on that night to protect the community of Blackwater."

Turner is the second false positive in Blackwater. The test of a BHP Mitsubishi Alliance worker in April that came through positive, before a second was negative.

The mistake was attributed to a "laboratory error", the ABC reported.

"The life of the party."

Friends of Turner are remembering him as a lovable larrikin.

"He was a larrikin and always the life of the party," a friend told The Australian. "He was a funny, kind person who always had time for his mates."

"You were a top bloke and always knew how to make your friends smile. Fly high buddy and thoughts to your loved ones," another wrote on Turner's Facebook page.


The reaction.

Social media was flooded with negative comments following the announcement from Queensland Health.

A petition, started by Blackwater woman Nicole Muller, demanded a "national apology" from officials. The petition says Turner's family and friends, especially his fiancée Simone Devon, had endured "emotional, mental and physical trauma" because of the statements made by leaders about 'Australia's youngest COVID-19 death'.

The state's opposition leader Deb Frecklington slammed the mistake and said the Premier must now explain why Queenslanders should have confidence in the current testing regime.

"The town of Blackwater and the surrounding communities have been in absolute upheaval because of this," she said.

"It's no good having a testing regime if the testing that is coming out the other end is not correct."

The case has also fuelled conspiracy theorists who believe the COVID-19 pandemic is either not real, or being grossly overestimated.

Medically, having a 100 per cent accurate test is the goal, but it is practically impossible due to a number of factors that differ dependent on the exact test you are performing.

False positives are rare, but do happen.

In Queensland, 1,058 total people have tested positive for COVID-19 and seven have died. As of June 2, there are only five active cases remaining.

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-With AAP.

Feature image: Facebook.