A hotel security guard who sparked a mass lockdown in Western Australia has contracted the highly contagious UK variant strain of COVID-19, authorities have revealed.
- Close contacts of the infected hotel guard are being tested for COVID-19
- Tests have come back negative for 13 high-risk contacts
- A Perth CBD deli has been added to the list of sites the guard visited
Western Australia went into a five-day lockdown on Sunday evening after a hotel security guard working at the Four Points by Sheraton Perth tested positive to coronavirus.
WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said the lockdown would be “critical” for limiting “the movement of people in the area where this case has been out and about”.
“We’ve got advice today of the strain being the UK variant,” he said.
No further local cases of COVID-19 were detected in WA on Sunday night, Premier Mark McGowan said.
A total of 3,171 coronavirus tests were conducted in WA on Sunday, compared to the daily average of about 500.
Guard’s close contacts in quarantine
Mr McGowan said there had been extensive testing of the close contacts of the security guard.
“In total 13 close contacts have now tested negative, and of those 11 high-risk contacts have been moved into hotel quarantine as an extra precaution,” he said.
He said 66 close contacts had been identified and all had either been tested or would be tested on Monday. They remained in quarantine, he added.
“As the contact tracing team does further work, the number of close contacts could also increase,” he said.
Mr McGowan reminded anyone who had visited one of the known exposure sites visited by the security guard to get tested as soon as they could.
Man went to clinic two days after sick day
Authorities say the guard worked at the quarantine hotel on Tuesday and Wednesday last week before calling in sick with symptoms on Thursday.
But rather than going to a COVID testing clinic, he went to a GP on Friday afternoon, when he was advised to attend a COVID -19 clinic.
He did not do that until the next day, on Saturday.
Authorities believe he was “probably infectious” on January 26 and 27 when he spent time in the community, and the earliest he could have been infectious was a week ago, on the 25th.
“This person should not be treated as a criminal,” Mr Dawson said.
“He has voluntarily come forward and presented himself for testing. Yes, we’ve got some questions on the timings on all of that, but he’s cooperating.”
New transmission risk location added
One more location was added to the hot spot list on Monday morning, a Grab N Go convenience store on Milligan Street in the Perth CBD.
The Premier said resources at COVID-19 testing clinics continued to be increased to cope with the influx of people.
All metropolitan clinics are set to remain open until 10pm and people can also get tested at private pathology centres and drive-through facilities.
“I know it is hot out there, so please if you are going to get tested to bring some water and wear a hat,” Mr McGowan said.
“You are performing your civic duty as Western Australians, so thank you. The more tests we can perform, the better we can manage this situation.”
Use of masks ‘very encouraging’
Mr McGowan said it was “very encouraging” most people had followed advice to wear masks when they left the house, and to avoid leaving home entirely except for the four provided exceptions.
“People have largely listened to the instructions,” he said.
“We need to keep it up, at least until the end of the week.”
Mr McGowan said police would take a “common sense” approach implementing the mask rule, saying he understood some people had not been able to purchase masks yet.
Police are providing masks to members of the public who do not have one where they can, and the government plans to distribute masks to community organisations for vulnerable people.
Mr Dawson moved to clarify the rules around face masks, saying people who left home must wear them at all times, including in all indoor environments like offices, unless they were the sole occupant driving a vehicle or were swimming.
All other exercise including walking and running requires a mask.
Children under the aged of 12 do not have to wear a mask at any time, but parents are encouraged to use them if their children is willing to wear one.
Warning against travel
Mr McGowan reminded non-residents of Perth, Peel and the South West to stay put until the lockdown was lifted, unless they met an “exceptional circumstance”.
“If you need to travel between regions, please ensure you have supporting evidence, such as a letter from your employer or evidence of a medical appointment,” he said.
He clarified that during the lockdown period, Peel and Perth were being treated as one region, so anyone who did need to travel for one of the reasons allowed could do so freely between the two.
Seven police checkpoints have been set up to monitor travel in Perth and Peel along with eight in regional areas, plus there will be random police patrols.
A G2G pass system for people moving between regions is expected to be rolled out by Monday afternoon.
The WA Government’s expanded mandatory contact register system was due to come into force on February 12, but will now come into place at 6:00am Tuesday.
Investigation and hotel review launched
WA Police are set to launch a full investigation into the COVID-19 case.
“We must get to the bottom of what happened,” Mr McGowan said.
“WA Police will allocate strong resources to this investigation. They have their forensic expertise … to do the work that is required.”
An additional review of WA’s hotel quarantine system, its processes and procedures, is also set to begin immediately, led by WA’s former chief health officer Professor Tarun Weeramanthri.
“We will leave no stone unturned to ensure we find out exactly what happened to prevent it from happening again,” Mr McGowan said.
Mr Dawson said the police investigation would be called ‘903’ to represent the total number of people in WA who had been infected with COVID-19.
He said it would “complement” the Department of Health’s contact tracing efforts, but was not a criminal investigation.
“This particular individual in case 903 has been very mobile in the community.
“We need to establish very clearly not only what happened at the hotel but his movements, when, where and with whom.”
Case sparks fresh spat with NSW
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has called WA’s tough border closure “pointless” after the positive COVID-19 case.
But Mr McGowan has rubbished the comments, saying they were “wrong”.
“He’s obviously wrong. Having borders helps,” he said.
“I think that is staring us in the face, it’s just common sense. Unfortunately, New South Wales I don’t think has learnt that lesson.”