Authorities in Western Australia are taking no chances after a quarantine hotel worker who tested positive for Covid-19 visited more than a dozen venues while infectious.
Western Australia’s Premier Mark McGowan announced a snap five-day hard lockdown yesterday after the state recorded its first locally transmitted case of Covid-19 in nearly 10 months. The patient is a security guard at Four Points by Sheraton Perth — a quarantine hotel — and worked on the same floor where guests had tested positive for the mutation that emerged in the United Kingdom late last year. “Based on the information we have,” McGowan said, “it appears possible that this new positive case has the highly transmissible new U.K. variant.” It was also revealed that the security guard had visited 17 different locations around metropolitan Perth while infectious. The news broke just hours after health authorities in Canberra said the country had gone exactly two weeks with no coronavirus infections outside managed isolation, marking the longest period without community transmission since February 2020.
The new lockdown covers the Perth, Peel, and South West regions, which together account for roughly 2.4 million people, or 90 percent of Western Australia’s total population. Residents in these areas are now under strict stay-at-home orders, and can only leave the house for several reasons: shopping for essential supplies and medicine; medical or healthcare needs; exercise within their neighborhood (with just one other person and for one hour per day); and for work if it cannot be done remotely. No visitors are being permitted inside homes unless in emergencies or if they are caring for a vulnerable person. Masks must be worn at all times when outside the house.
Students are getting an extension of their summer holidays as schools will remain closed all week. Restaurants and cafés can only offer takeout service, and the state government has mandated the wholesale closure of pubs and bars, gyms, playgrounds, and indoor sports centers. Entertainment venues and cinemas have also been temporarily shut. Weddings scheduled for the lockdown period will have to be cancelled, while funerals can only host up to 10 guests. All lockdown measures will be lifted this Friday at 6 p.m. local time.
Given these developments, other states and territories have reacted with a flurry of new entry restrictions for travelers from Perth. Neighboring South Australia has gone for a hard border closure, while Victoria has banned the entry of all travelers from affected areas except individuals who meet certain exemption requirements. Queensland has declared large parts of Western Australia a coronavirus hotspot, and incoming visitors or returnees will now have to spend 14 days in mandatory hotel quarantine, a rule also being enforced in the Northern Territory. Travelers arriving in New South Wales from Western Australia since January 25 are subject to the same stay-at-home orders that have taken effect in Perth; those who touched down more recently must get tested within 48 hours of their arrival.