Perth, Peel to escape coronavirus lockdown

Western Australia’s coronavirus lockdown will end as scheduled at midnight after the state again recorded no new community COVID-19 cases.

Premier Mark McGowan has confirmed Perth and Peel will exit lockdown but some restrictions will remain in place for the rest of the week.

“The short three day lockdown has done the job it was designed to do,” he told reporters on Monday.

“It was a circuit breaker we needed to limit community spread and keep our community healthy.”

Interim restrictions will remain in place until 1201am on Saturday.

Schools will return and people will be free to leave their homes and travel to other regions but must continue to wear face masks.

“We need to be cautious when we come out of lockdown as the virus could still be out there,” the premier said.

Two locally-acquired cases have been confirmed after the virus leaked out of the Mercure quarantine hotel last week.

Authorities have identified 354 close contacts of confirmed cases and 222 have so far returned negative test results.

Out of 748 casual contacts identified, 329 have tested negative with other results pending.

More than 29,000 tests have been conducted since Friday.

The guest at the Mercure whose infection led to the outbreak had travelled to India last December to attend his own wedding.

Both he and his bride tested positive in hotel quarantine upon returning to Australia earlier this month.

Genomic testing has confirmed the virus spread from the couple to several other guests in nearby rooms, including a Melbourne man who did not test positive until after he had completed quarantine and spent five days in the community.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews defended the wedding travel exemption amid a growing war of words between the state and federal governments.

“When the exemption was granted for that individual it was absolutely in line with the criteria at the time,” she told Perth radio 6PR on Monday.

“What we have done since that time is tighten it in terms of the criteria and the reasons for travel … a wedding would (now) be unlikely to be approved.”

Ms Andrews said travel was now only permitted to India if it was in the national interest, part of the COVID response or for medical treatment unavailable in Australia.

A female friend of the Melbourne man also tested positive after he stayed at her house upon leaving quarantine.

On Saturday, a second locally-acquired case was detected – a man in his 40s who had dined at the same Kardinya restaurant as the Melbourne man.

His household contacts have been cleared of the virus, but authorities have extended the list of possible transmission sites, including a childcare centre, based on his recent activities.

Mr McGowan has criticised the federal government for not providing better quarantine facilities, saying CBD hotels are not suitable.

He wants Canberra to open air bases and Christmas Island to accommodate travellers, adding that it is the Commonwealth’s constitutional responsibility to handle the quarantine scheme.

Ms Andrews said the facilities were not fit for purpose and the WA premier should focus on finding constructive solutions.

“The tit-for-tat politics is not helping Australians and it really just needs to stop,” she said.

Michael Ramsey – AAP

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