Last Update 23:22
Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Parts of Western Australia in three-day virus lockdown, questions over hotel quarantine

The lockdown was ordered after a returning traveller who tested negative on release from a Perth quarantine hotel later tested positive for COVID-19, with authorities suspecting he became infected while in the hotel

Reuters , Saturday 24 Apr 2021
Vaccination in Australia
People wait outside a mass vaccination centre as people arrive to receive the vaccine for the Covid-19 coronavirus in Melbourne on April 21, 2021. AFP
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Western Australia state recorded one new locally acquired coronavirus case on Saturday, as more than 2 million people in the state began a three-day snap lockdown after a COVID-19 outbreak in a hotel quarantine led to community transmission.

The lockdown was ordered after a returning traveller who tested negative on release from a Perth quarantine hotel later tested positive for COVID-19, with authorities suspecting he became infected while in the hotel.

The latest case increased the outbreak to three confirmed infections, although contact tracing and testing were still underway.

Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan called on the national government to establish designated quarantine facilities after the latest leakage of the virus from hotel quarantine.

"I have been calling for the commonwealth's assistance with quarantine for many months now," McGowan said.

McGowan said that while the hotel quarantine system has largely worked, with tens of thousands of travellers passing through it, the national government must find new facilities outside crowded downtown locations.

"(Downtown) hotels are not fit for purpose quarantine facilities, and quarantine is the responsibility of the commonwealth government under the constitution," McGowan said.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) on Saturday also urged a review of the hotel quarantine system to prevent further outbreaks.

"There are still holes that can be plugged," Omar Khorshid, AMA's president told the ABC national broadcaster.

There have been several virus leaks from hotel quarantine in recent months in Western Australia and other states, leading to short lockdowns or stricter social distancing orders.

However, there hasn't been a major community outbreak for months, allowing Australians to travel freely across the country, dine out, gather nearly freely and stop wearing face masks in most places.

Australia closed its borders more than a year ago and returning travellers, except from New Zealand, must undergo two weeks of mandatory hotel quarantine at their own expense.

The hotel quarantine system, together with snap lockdowns and swift tracking limiting coronavirus has helped Australia to keep its COVID-19 numbers low compared with other developed countries, with just over 29,500 cases and 910 deaths.

In Western Australia's third lockdown, people in the state capital Perth and neighbouring Peel region have been asked to stay home except for essential work, and medical and shopping purposes.

Ceremonies to honour Australia's military personnel on the Anzac Day holiday on Sunday have been cancelled and people were urged to commemorate privately. Last year, the coronavirus pandemic forced most traditional memorials to be cancelled across Australia for the first time in decades.

Anzac Day originally commemorated a bloody battle on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey during World War One. On April 25, 1915, thousands of troops from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) were among a larger Allied force that landed on the narrow beaches of the Gallipoli peninsula, an ill-fated campaign that would claim more than 130,000 lives.

Today, Anzac Day honours all Australian troops from all conflicts.

Australia's topflight A-League soccer match between Brisbane Roar FC and Perth Glory scheduled for Sunday has been postponed while an Australian football game between Fremantle and North Melbourne will go ahead, but there will be no crowd.

Rugby players from Queensland state who were returning from Perth were asking their state government to allow them to skip a mandatory quarantine ahead of their championship final on May 8.

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