Western Australia has recorded one new local case in the community of Covid-19 overnight, as the Premier renewed his push for Commonwealth facilities to be used instead of hotels.
The state is on day one of a three-day lockdown, sparked after a 54-year-old Victorian man unwittingly contracted Covid-19 in quarantine at the Mercure Hotel then spread the virus to a friend before leaving Perth.
At his daily press conference on Saturday, Premier Mark McGowan said there had been no new cases overnight, but the Health Department later issued a statement saying there had been one.
“The WA Health Department has this afternoon confirmed a positive test result has been returned from a person within the community,” the statement read.
“The person presented for a Covid-19 test yesterday as they had attended one of the locations visited by the confirmed Covid-19 Victorian case, and the related local case.
“The person is now working closely with the department’s contact tracing team to determine public exposure sites.”
McGowan said CBD hotels were not fit for purpose quarantine facilities, adding quarantine was the responsibility of the Commonwealth government.
“There are a number of Commonwealth facilities that would be more suitable for quarantine purposes,” he told reporters on Saturday.
“The pandemic will be here for at least the rest of this year. It is time for the Commonwealth to step up and help.
“My government stands ready to work with them and help establish Commonwealth quarantine facilities.
“They have a range of facilities available. It’s the only way to help reduce the risk further.
“We cannot continue down this path for another year or beyond.”
McGowan suggested facilities like Christmas Island and Curtin Airbase should be used because they were purpose-built to quarantine people and were isolated.
“I’m getting to the end of my tether with the Commonwealth handing responsibility to the states and not helping,” he said.
McGowan also expressed disappointment that some people were competing in sport or attending funerals overseas, then returning to Australia with the virus and putting others at risk, saying “it has to stop”.
Earlier in the week, the Premier requested the state halve its intake of arrivals.
The only other new case that was reported overnight was a woman aged in her 50s, who is a returned overseas traveller from India in hotel quarantine.
McGowan thanked the community for co-operating during the lockdown and described it as a “serious situation”.
“This has been a rapidly evolving situation. I know it has been difficult and I know it has been frustrating,” he said.
“But if we can all work together and do the right thing over the next few days we will increase our chances of stopping the virus in its tracks — just like we’ve done before.
“The early signs have been encouraging. People have largely listened to the instructions and done the right thing.”
More than 4000 tests were conducted at public and private Covid-19 clinics on Friday.
So far, 337 contacts have been identified for the Victorian man and Perth woman, including 71 close contacts.
McGowan said 27 close contacts had so far tested negative.
There are currently 109 casual contacts, with 60 of those returning a negative result so far.
In addition, there are currently 157 other contacts, which are pending classification by health officials.
“These are encouraging signs but it is still early days,” McGowan said.
McGowan said a total of 24 guests were on the affected floor at the Mercure Hotel during the specific period and five had left Australia.
Eighteen had tested negative and the only positive case was the Victorian man.
Various hotel quarantine staff worked on the floor during the same period, with 57 returning a negative result. Two results are pending.
“Hotel quarantine is an imperfect system but it is the best system we have and largely it has worked well, with around 45,000 returning Australians being processed through the West Australian system,” McGowan said.
Police set up eight vehicle checkpoints overnight and up until 8am on Saturday officers had turned back 60 vehicles who did not have a valid reason to be travelling outside of the Perth and Peel regions.
Commissioner Chris Dawson said a woman was fined for not wearing a mask at a rugby match on Friday night.
“I would characterise it as having failed the attitude test, so she has been issued with a $1000 infringement. We have had no other infringements to date,” he said.
Health Minister Roger Cook urged people to use the Safe WA app.
“What you saw yesterday was a well-drilled operation to establish where the two infected people moved around Perth,” he said.
“It was very helpful that the woman had been using the safe Western Australian app and I commend her for doing so.”
A dental clinic employee was earlier revealed as Western Australia’s first case of Covid-19 involving community transmission in more than a year.
The Victorian man stayed at the woman’s Kardinya home for one night before moving to Saint Catherine’s College at the University of Western Australia.
Her workplace, DB Dental on Canning Highway in Applecross, has been added to the list of public exposure sites visited by the pair since he was released from quarantine on April 17.
The woman, aged in her 40s, unwittingly worked at the clinic from 8am to 6pm on Thursday while infectious.
Her two children have so far tested negative for coronavirus.
Other exposure sites include Leisurefit Aquatic Centre in Booragoon, restaurants in Northbridge, Fortune Acupuncture Chinese Medical Clinic in Subiaco and Southlands Shopping Centre in Willetton.
Authorities believe the man contracted the virus while staying in a room opposite an ill couple who arrived from India.
Pregnant mother and nurse Alison Rose, along with her four-year-old daughter, also contracted the virus from the couple.
McGowan on Thursday conceded the Mercure was “not one of the best” hotels for quarantining and would no longer be used for returned travellers.
It will instead be used to house low-risk seasonal workers from Tonga and Vanuatu.
The state Opposition has criticised the government for not dumping the hotel from its list of quarantine locations for returned travellers given a report earlier this month identified it as a risk.
“The government knew in early April that the Mercure Hotel needed work to continue to be used for quarantine,” Opposition leader Mia Davies said.
“They ignored this report, continued to use an unsafe facility, and that decision has led to community transmission and a snap lockdown for millions of West Australians.”
Opposition health spokeswoman Libby Mettam said the Labor government had “continued to ignore the holes in the hotel quarantine system and the warnings” from the chief health officer, adding the situation was “completely avoidable”.
New Zealand and some Australian jurisdictions have effectively shut their borders to Western Australia or enforced tough restrictions on travellers following the outbreak.
The Perth and Peel regions entered day one of a snap three-day lockdown at midnight.
The lockdown is due to end at midnight on Monday but that could change if authorities discover the virus has spread further.
Some people were seen panic buying at supermarkets on Friday, with toilet paper, rice and pasta among the items snapped up.
Meanwhile, popular night-life spots like Northbridge looked like ghost towns on Friday night.
Long lines have been forming at testing clinics since the lockdown was announced, as people scramble to get tested for the virus.
Anzac Day services have been cancelled and people have been urged to pay their respects at dawn from their driveways like they did last year.
Places that are closed during the lockdown:
Pubs, bars and clubs, except for takeaway;
Gyms and indoor sporting venues — no community sport is permitted;
Playgrounds, skate parks and outdoor recreational facilities;
Cinemas, entertainment venues and casinos;
Large religious gatherings and places of worship;
Libraries and cultural institutions.
No visitors are allowed at hospitals, residential aged care or disability facilities unless there are exceptional circumstances.
Weddings and funerals are permitted with a 100-person capacity, but masks must be worn.
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