Authorities are scrambling to work out how a security guard working in a Perth quarantine hotel contracted Covid while wearing full PPE.
The man, aged in his 20s, tested positive on Saturday night sparking a harsh five-day lockdown for Western Australia’s Perth, Peel and South West regions after the state had gone 10 months without a community case of the deadly virus.
The state’s quarantine program has been blasted as ‘amateurish’ by a doctor, who claims hotels are not run effectively enough to keep Covid out of the community, as they are not built to facilitate the 14-day isolation required.
The security guard was working on the same floor of the Sheraton Four Points hotel in Perth which was housing returned Australians confirmed to have the highly-infectious UK Covid strain.
Genome sequencing is expected to be completed Tuesday but Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan said it appears possible the man contracted the UK variant.
Exactly how the infection was acquired remains under urgent investigation, Mr McGowan said.
The security guard, from Maylands, inner Perth, had worked 12-hour shifts on both January 26 and 27 while there were four active cases at the hotel, including two with the UK variant and one confirmed to have the South African strain.
Health minister Roger Cook said the security guard ‘would have’ been wearing PPE while on shift at the hotel.
The security guard worked two shifts at Sheraton Four Points in Perth’s CBD, and was stationed on a floor where at least one returned traveller was diagnosed with the highly infectious UK strain of the disease
Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan (pictured) said it appears possible the security guard has contracted the highly-infectious UK Covid strain
Dr Andrew Miller, the president of AMA WA, blamed the hotel quarantine program for the coronavirus leak.
‘Hotels are not designed to be quarantine facilities and they are not run in a way that will be effective at keeping Covid out of the community,’ he said.
‘If you’re going to have a quarantine facility, get rid of the word hotel, convert the air conditioning so they’re pumping fresh air through the place, redesign the administration of it and employ people who simply work in quarantine facilities who are trained quarantine professionals, anything short of that is a ridiculous idea.’
This is not the first time the president has argued the failures of the quarantine program need to be addressed.
‘It’s incredibly disappointing that we are still running what we would describe as an amateurish quarantine system, these are not quarantine facilities, these are hotels,’ he told WA Today two weeks ago.
Perth, Peel and the South West entered a strict lockdown beginning 6pm on Sunday and lasting until Friday – impacting about 80 per cent of WA’s population
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE INFECTED SECURITY GUARD
The security guard, who is aged in his 20s and from Maylands, inner Perth, tested positive to coronavirus on Saturday night – but may have been infectious four days earlier.
He was working at the Sheraton Four Points hotel, on the same floor as returned Australians confirmed to have the highly-infectious UK Covid strain.
The man worked 12-hour shifts on both January 26 and 27 while there were four active cases at the hotel, including two with the UK variant and one confirmed to have the South African strain.
Authorities are adamant the security guard did not enter any hotel rooms.
The man returned negative results as part of routine testing on January 15, 17 and 23 but started to become unwell last Thursday – January 28.
He was most likely infectious from January 26 but only tested positive on Saturday, causing concern to health authorities due to the extensive number of venues he visited while potentially infectious over a four-day period.
The man had a second job as a ride share driver but authorities said he had not worked in that role since January 22.
The man has three housemates who have all tested negative to Covid-19. They have all been placed in hotel quarantine for 14 days.
The security guard visited 15 venues, which have been listed as potential exposure sites. This includes a Coles, KFC, halal grocery store, an Indian consulate and a hair salon.
The man returned negative results as part of routine testing on January 15, 17 and 23 but started to become unwell last Thursday and called in sick for his shift that day.
States and territories had agreed earlier last month to test hotel quarantine staff daily.
He was most likely infectious from January 26, Western Australia’s chief health officer Andy Robertson said, with 15 venues visited by the man now listed as potential exposure sites.
The man had a second job as a ride share driver but authorities said he had not worked in that role since January 22.
Authorities are adamant the security guard did not ‘unnecessarily expose himself’ by entering any hotel rooms.
Mr McGowan declared a state of emergency on Sunday and ordered roughly 80 per cent of the state’s population to stay at home except for four essential reasons.
The lockdown is in place until 6pm on Friday.
The security guard’s three housemates have tested negative to Covid but they have all been placed in hotel quarantine for 14 days.
Mr McGowan warned ‘we can expect that they will become positive in coming days’.
Contact tracing continues with an urgent alert issued for the residents who attended 15 venues visited by the security guard to get tested immediately.
BORDER RESTRICTIONS FOR WA
Queensland: Queensland has declared Perth, Peel and the South West a coronavirus hotspot, meaning anyone arriving from the area must go into 14-day hotel quarantine. Queensland Health also announced that anyone who had travelled from those WA areas since January 26 should be tested and isolate until they receive their result.
Victoria: From 9pm Victorian time on January 31, the Perth metropolitan area, the Peel region and the South West region of Western Australia will move from a green zone to a red zone under Victoria’s ‘traffic light’ travel permit system. If you have been in one of these currently listed red zones since January 25, you will not be allowed to enter Victoria without an exception, exemption or permitted worker permit.
New South Wales: A public health order places travellers who have arrived from Western Australia since January 25 under the same stay at home restrictions they would have faced had they not flown over east. New arrivals must complete an interstate traveller declaration and anyone who has been at a venue identified as a potential exposure site must get tested and isolate for 14 days. Anyone who has been in the Perth, Peel and the South West areas since January 25 must get tested within 48 hours of their arrival into New South Wales.
South Australia: Authorities are monitoring the situation but have not announced border restrictions as of Sunday night. However, residents are warned to delay any non-essential travel to Western Australia and South Australian residents are advised to return as soon as possible. South Australia Police will have a presence at the airport to ensure all people entering the state from interstate have submitted a cross border travel application.
ACT: If you have been in the Perth metropolitan area or the Peel and South West regions of WA since 25 January, you should self-quarantine and get tested for COVID-19. In line with the lockdown in WA, you must stay in self-quarantine until 9pm on Friday, even if you get a negative test result. This applies to passengers on the Qantas flight from Perth that arrived in Canberra Sunday evening. Non-ACT residents in WA are advised to not travel to the ACT at this time.
Northern Territory: From 7:30PM Sunday (NT time), the Perth, South West and Peel regions in WA will be declared hot spots for the purposes of travel to the Northern Territory. Anyone who arrives after this time will be directed into mandatory supervised quarantine. Anyone who has arrived in the NT from these regions between January 25 and 31 are directed to self-quarantine immediately, get tested, and remain in self-quarantine until returning a negative test.
Tasmania: Perth, Peel and the South West have been classified as high-risk areas. Travellers who have spent time in a high-risk area or premise in the 14 days before arriving in Tasmania are not permitted to enter Tasmania, unless approved as an essential traveller. If entry is approved, there may be a quarantine requirement in government-designated accommodation (fees can apply).
Long queues are seen outside Coles in Maylands, one of the potential exposure sites, in Perth, on Sunday
Residents are pictured queuing to get into a Coles supermarket on Sunday before the harsh five-day lockdown comes into effect
Residents in Perth, Peel and the South West are required to stay home, except for the following four reasons:
– Shopping for essentials like groceries, medicine and necessary supplies
– Medical or health care needs including compassionate requirements and looking after the vulnerable
– Exercise, within their neighbourhood, but only with one other person and only for one hour per day
– Work, where you cannot work from home or remotely
If you do leave home, for one of the four reasons you will be required to wear a mask at all times outside and if you need to work indoors, then wearing a mask in the workplace is also mandatory
Mask wearing on public transport is also mandatory
Long queues had started forming at testing sites around Mayland on Sunday afternoon, with a clinic opposite the Coles at Inglewood running out of swabs by 4:30pm.
As per the lockdown orders, residents will only be allowed to leave their homes for four reasons; shopping for essential goods like groceries and medicine, seeking medical treatment, exercise for one hour per day and work if a person cannot work remotely.
All pubs, clubs, playgrounds and gyms in Perth will close, while restaurants will be open for takeaway only and visits will be banned to care homes and hospitals.
Schools will remain closed – they were supposed to reopen on Monday for the first day of the year.
Restrictions have also been reintroduced for funerals – limiting them to just 10 people for the duration of lockdown.
Weddings have been cancelled during the lockdown period.
Residents must wear face masks at all times they are outside and they are also compulsory at indoor workplaces.
Masks are mandatory on public transport.
Anybody within the locked down regions were urged to stay put to avoid potentially spreading the virus to regional and vulnerable communities.
‘We are strongly encouraging that everyone in this area who is from another WA region, stay here,’ Mr McGowan said.
‘Do not travel further outside of this area until the lockdown is over.’
Supermarkets were struggling to cope with the demand by Sunday afternoon as panic buyers rushed to stores to stock up for the lockdown.
Authorities in Western Australia are urging anyone with Covid-like symptoms to come forward for testing. Anyone who has visited a venue listed as a potential exposure site must get tested immediately
The state enjoyed close to 10 months without a single case of Covid-19 in the community, a feat Mr McGowan credits to his tough stance on borders by closing his state off from the rest of Australia for most of 2020
This lockdown means the following businesses, venues and locations in the relevant regions need to close for the next five days:
– Pubs, bars and clubs
– Gyms and indoor sporting venues
– Playgrounds, skate parks and outdoor recreational facilities
– Cinemas, entertainment venues, and casinos
– Large religious gatherings and places of worship
– Libraries and cultural institutions
Restaurants and cafes will close, and provide takeaway service only
10 people can attend funerals, weddings are cancelled for the next five days
No visitors are permitted to your home, unless caring for someone vulnerable or an emergency
No visitors will be allowed in aged care homes, unless exceptional circumstances
No visitors to hospitals and/or disability facilities, unless exceptional circumstances
There are reports some were forced to close their doors to give employees an opportunity to restock. Pictures showed people queuing around the block to access stores.
Coles has imposed buying limits for all stores in the state, including one pack per customer for toilet paper and paper towels.
Mr McGowan had implored the public not to rush to stock up on supplies.
He said the lockdown will last at least five days, and if there are no new cases, authorities will look to slowly ease restrictions from that point onwards.
‘We’ve seen this all over the world. This virus is insidious, it is very difficult to control. We’ve done a remarkable job the last 10 months of containing that but we’ve now had an outbreak,’ Mr McGowan said.
‘Our model is to deal with it very quickly, and very harshly, so that we can bring it under control and not have community spread like in other parts of the world.’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison noted the next few days will be difficult for residents subject to the harsh lockdown.
‘The coming days will be difficult for many Western Australians but we’re confident WA will be able to get on top of the current outbreak,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘A big thank you to everyone in WA for your patience and cooperation as we all work to fight this terrible virus.’
Mr McGowan begged the community to come forward and seek testing if they develop any symptoms of Covid-19, no matter how obscure.
He said there may be delays in testing, and suggested people take ‘a hat, sunscreen and some water’ while they queue up in Perth’s scorching hot summer.
The list of venues potentially exposed to Covid will continue to grow in the coming days as contact tracers get further information but already includes several businesses throughout the suburb of Maylands.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the days ahead will be a difficult period for the Western Australia residents subject to the harsh lockdown
The infected employee was registered on the SafeWA contact tracing app, which recorded his movements in the days before testing positive.
Anybody who visited one of the following locations must seek Covid testing immediately and self isolate until they receive a negative result:
- Coles Maylands on January 25th between 8pm and 10pm and January 29 between 8pm and 9pm
- KFC Maylands on January 27 between 6pm and midnight
- Mitsubishi Motors in Midland on January 27 from 7pm to close
- Spudshed, Coventry Village in Morley on January 27 from 8pm to midnight
- ECU Joondalup on January 28 from 11am to 2pm
- Consulate general of India in St Georges Terrace on January 28 at 5pm
- Halal Grocery Store in Cloverdale on January 28 from 7pm to 9pm
- Venus ladies and gentleman hair design in Maylands on January 29 between 1pm and 3pm
- Perth Convention Centre on January 29 between 4pm and 6pm
- Nedlands GP on January 29 between 5pm and 6pm
- Chemist Warehouse North Perth on January 29 between 5.30pm and 7.30pm
- 7-Eleven Ascot petrol station on January 29 from 8pm to 9pm
- Coles Express Shell Clovedale on January 30 between 12pm and 3pm
- Puma Service Station in Burswood on January 30 from 11am until 12pm
- Pharmacy 777 at Maylands Park shopping centre on January 30 from 2.30pm to 4pm
Mr McGowan has urged the public to reconsider travel plans for their own health and safety.
‘Unless you actually have to come, don’t come, because it’s a situation where you’ll be in a lockdown,’ Police Commissioner Chris Dawson added.
States and territories around the country acted swiftly to impose strict border restrictions.
Queensland moved early to declare the areas subject to lockdown as hotspots.
‘Anyone who has been in those areas who arrives in Queensland from 6pm (Sunday) will be required to go into 14 days mandatory hotel quarantine,’ Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
States have moved swiftly to impose restrictions on travellers coming from the areas of Western Australia subject to the five-day lockdown. Pictured, Perth airport earlier last month
‘This timeframe may change as we receive more information about the WA outbreak.
‘Anyone who is already in Queensland but has been in Perth or the Peel or South West regions since January 26 should come forward and get tested and isolate until get a negative result.’
Victoria advanced the lockdown areas from green zones to red under their traffic light system, from 9pm on Sunday.
Anyone who has been in a red zone since January 25, including Victorians, cannot enter the state without an exemption.
In New South Wales, a public health order places travellers who have arrived from Western Australia since January 25 under the same stay at home restrictions they would have faced had they not flown over east.
New arrivals must complete an interstate traveller declaration and anyone who has been at a venue identified as a potential exposure site must get tested and isolate for 14 days.
Shoppers flocked to grocery stores to prepare for the five-day lockdown on Sunday afternoon
Anyone who had been in the lockdown areas since January 25 must get tested within 48 hours of their arrival into New South Wales.
South Australia is monitoring the situation but by Sunday night had not announced any border restrictions.
Tasmania has banned all travellers from Perth, Peel and the South West, the Northern Territory has imposed mandatory quarantine and the ACT requires they get a Covid test and self-quarantine until 9pm on Friday.
Mr McGowan said: ‘Border controls are important here – and I 100 per cent support them to ensure we can get through this’.
The development came as Australia reached a milestone two weeks without any community transmission.
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