Perth and parts of Western Australia go into FIVE-DAY lockdown from tonight after hotel quarantine security guard catches Covid super-strain – and state borders close
- Parts of Western Australia will enter a harsh five-day lockdown amid Covid case
- The state had enjoyed close to 10 months without a community case of Covid
- Residents of Perth, Peel and South West can only leave home for four reasons
- Security guard at a quarantine hotel tested positive, visited at least 15 places
Perth will enter a harsh five-day lockdown after a security guard at a quarantine hotel tested positive to Covid and visited at least 15 locations around the city.
Western Australia’s Premier Mark McGowan declared a state of emergency on Sunday as he revealed the man in his 20s tested positive to the virus after midnight on Saturday.
Perth, Peel and the South West will enter lockdown beginning 6pm on Sunday and lasting until Friday – impacting about 80 per cent of WA’s population.
The three regions will be closed off to each other, meaning residents will be banned from travelling between them without an exemption. Road checkpoints will be set up to ensure compliance.
The employee 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 UK strain of the disease, which is up to 80 per cent more infectious.
Mr McGowan said genomic sequencing is already underway, but it would be reasonable to accept that the man contracted the mutant strain, and that his close contacts would test positive in the coming days.
Western Australia’s Premier Mark McGowan held an emergency press conference on Sunday
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
The employee doubles as a rideshare driver, but the premier understands that he had not worked any shifts for the company since Friday, January 23.
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 – though this view is disputed by other states.
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.’
Perth, Peel and the South West will enter a strict lockdown beginning 6pm on Sunday and lasting until Friday – impacting about 80 per cent of WA’s population
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the days ahead will be a difficult period for the Western Australia residents subject to the harsh lockdown
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
Elective surgery and procedures for categories 2 and 3 will be suspended from Tuesday. Category 1 and urgent category 2 surgery will continue
Supermarkets were struggling to cope with the demand by Sunday afternoon as panic buyers rushed to stores to stock up for the lockdown.
There are reports some have been forced to close their doors to give employees an opportunity to restock. Pictures show people queuing around the block to access stores.
Mr McGowan implored the public not to rush to stock up on supplies.
He warned 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 warned 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.’
Authorities are investigating how the man came to be infected with Covid, and are adamant he did not ‘unnecessarily expose himself’ by entering any hotel rooms.
Health minister Roger Cook said the man ‘would have’ been wearing PPE while working on shift at the hotel.
He tested positive to the virus on Saturday night after working two 12 hour shifts last week, on January 25 and 27.
During his shifts, there were four known cases of Covid in the hotel – two of which were the UK variant and one was the equally as infectious South African strain.
Supermarkets were struggling to cope with the demand by Sunday afternoon as panic buyers rushed to stores to stock up for the lockdown
By Thursday, the young man had developed symptoms and called in sick to work before presenting for Covid testing.
But authorities have already compiled a long list of 15 locations across Perth that have potentially been exposed to the virus.
The list will continue to grow in the coming days as contact tracers get further information, but already includes several businesses throughout the suburb of Maylands.
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 25 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
Authorities have already tested the man’s housemates, who both tested negative. But there are fears they might just be in the early stages of the infection, and could still later test positive.
Mr McGowan said the employee was regularly tested as part of his contract, including on January 15, 17 and 23 before his positive test on January 30.
The premier begged the community to come forward and seek testing if they develop any symptoms of Covid-19, no matter how obscure.
He warned 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.
Testing clinic locations will be announced shortly and will have extended hours for the foreseeable future.
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
There are reports some have been forced to close their doors to give employees an opportunity to restock. Mr McGowan implored the public not to rush to stock up on supplies
Panic buyers flock to grocery stores to prepare for the five day lockdown
Just one day earlier, the premier announced he would allow travellers from Queensland and Victoria to fly in without having to quarantine or self isolate.
He said the decision was made in response to both states’ continued success in the fight against Covid.
From Monday February 1, Queenslanders were supposed to be exempt from the strict quarantine process, while Victorians would be welcomed in from February 5.
But Mr McGowan has now 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.
Queensland moved swiftly to declare the lockdown areas 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.
‘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 moved 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.
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.
Those hopes were dashed by Mr McGowan’s press conference.
The employee 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
The concept of a short, sharp lockdown is not foreign to Australia, with governments in both South Australia and Queensland opting to introduce them to stem the spread of Covid-19 in the past.
Queensland’s 72 hour lockdown came last month after a cleaner at a quarantine hotel contracted the highly infectious UK strain of Covid-19 at work.
She spread the infection to her partner, but there were no other known cases in the community.
Mr McGowan said he was following Ms Palaszczuk’s actions because she ‘crushed it’ and successfully avoided community spread.
After three days, lockdown was lifted and restrictions eased swiftly in the week to follow, with Ms Palaszczuk declaring the weekend an enormous success.
‘Brisbane crushed it… And our measures are actually harsher. Hopefully, we can crush it in its tracks and get back to normal in coming weeks,’ Mr McGowan said.
He said he ‘believed this was the right way’, in a veiled dig at NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who did not lock down and beat Sydney’s outbreaks in a month using gentler methods.
It followed South Australia’s decision to lock down months earlier, when Covid was detected in the community after months without any transmission.
The premier announced on Saturday he would allow travellers from Queensland and Victoria to fly in without having to quarantine or self isolate
WHAT ARE THE ‘SUPER-COVID’ VARIANTS SPREADING AROUND THE WORLD?
UK’S ‘KENT’ VARIANT – B117
UK health officials announced in December that a ‘variant of concern’ had emerged in Kent.
The variant is known to scientists as B117, a name derived from the location of its most significant mutations.
B117 appears to be more infectious than older ‘wild-type’ coronavirus variants.
Most estimates put it at about 70% more infectious, but some studies suggest it could be twice as infectious, while more moderate projections say its transmissibility is only about 56% higher.
B117 quickly became dominant in the UK, and now accounts for at least 61% of cases there.
It has been detected in 60 countries, including the US, where at least 159 cases in 22 states have been identified.
While its mutations seemed to quite clearly make the variant more infectious, it didn’t seem to change the odds of severe COVID-19 or death.
But UK health officials said Friday it may be 30 to 40% more deadly, based on how many people infected with it die. The mortality rate for people hospitalized with B117 in the UK appears no different from that of older variants.
After reviewing the UK’s data, Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert said it may indeed be deadlier.
However, he and UK officials still say other variants are more concerning because they may make vaccines less effective – which doesn’t seem to be the case with the UK variant.
SOUTH AFRICAN VARIANT – B1351
A new variant was announced in South Africa on December 18.
It shares a mutation with the UK variant – in a location on its genome known as 501Y – but also has several other mutations.
The South African variant is estimated to be about 50 percent more contagious and is already dominant there.
It has spread to at lest 20 countries, including the UK, which has at least 77 countries.
South Africa’s mutated variant has not yet been spotted in the US – but many experts suspect it is already here.
President Joe Biden invoked a travel ban on people coming from South Africa in an effort to stop importation of the new variant.
Dr Fauci says that the South African variant is the most concerning one because it might render vaccines less effective due to mutations that help it ‘hide’ from antibodies developed after vaccination or a previous bout of COVID-19.
BRAZIL’S VARIANT – P1
The variant first caught international attention when four travelers arriving to Tokyo from Manaus, Brazil, tested positive on January 2.
The variant has the same spike protein mutation as the highly transmissible versions found in Kent and South Africa – named N501Y – which makes the spike better able to bind to receptors inside the body.
Manaus, the largest city in the Amazon, has been devastated by COVID-19. Hospitals are running out of oxygen and Brazilian officials have said it is in a state of crisis.
The new variant accounts for nearly half of all cases there and is thought to be more contagious and possibly make vaccines less effective.
The variant has been spotted in Japan, France and Germany. It has not yet been detected in the UK or the US – but former FDA Commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb said he suspects it has already arrived.
Mr McGowan also said he would be suspending his election campaign while he focused on eliminating the virus again.
‘That’s the furthest thing from my mind… I don’t think people want political campaigning for at least the next five days,’ he said.
There are fears Victoria could also break its 25-day Covid-19 free spell after a test came back with an ‘indeterminate result’.
Department of Health and Human Services took to Twitter to make the announcement on Sunday.
‘DHHS received a notification of an indeterminate result last night,’ the tweet read.
‘Follow up tests are underway and precautionary public health actions are being taken. There will be an update on the case later today.’
From Monday February 1, Queenslanders were supposed to be exempt from the strict quarantine process, while Victorians would be welcomed in from February 5
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