WA’s Acting Premier has issued more reassurances over the state’s hotel quarantine system, as details emerged of another traveller who breached coronavirus restrictions in Perth.
- More police will be stationed at quarantine hotels in Perth
- But Health Minister Roger Cook says WA is in a “good situation”
- A traveller from Adelaide repeatedly left his hotel earlier this month
It comes after the case of an international arrival who escaped from quarantine over the weekend, with authorities failing to alert the public for more than nine hours.
Roger Cook said despite that breach, the community could be confident the Government had “got the situation in hand”.
He compared WA to the UK, which has registered a new daily record of 53,135 COVID-19 cases.
“In Western Australia we’re in a great position, we’ve had no community spread of the disease since April and we have got every active case under quarantine,” he said.
“That is a good situation for us to be in, and we should be confident and thankful.”
Western Australia recorded no new cases of COVID-19 overnight.
Mr Cook said the Government was continuing to work on the security arrangements around hotel quarantine, after yesterday announcing increased powers for security guards.
He said that included police increasing their presence at hotels, but he did not say how long that arrangement would be in place.
“We have asked all those security guards to undertake extra training,” he said.
“That’s an important element, just to make sure that we get on top of the situation in relation to our hotel quarantine quickly.”
Changes a ‘bandaid’ solution: AMA
Mr Cook said police would continue to play an important role in keeping coronavirus out of WA.
“They’re keeping a close eye on all our quarantiners, whether they’re in hotels or at home,” he said.
But the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has dismissed the changes made to quarantine arrangements as a “bandaid solution”, saying it had lost faith in the Health Department as the overseer of the system.
“I would say at this stage it has been a fairly mediocre attempt to improve things,” AMA WA president Andrew Miller said.
“They should be having an independent review so we can take the politics out of it.”
SA tourist repeatedly left Perth hotel
In addition to the weekend quarantine breach, a 25-year-old man who had flown to Perth from Adelaide earlier this month has been fined $13,000 for five breaches of coronavirus regulations.
Police said the man flew into Perth on December 11, but when officers went to his hotel room for a routine compliance check the next day he was not there.
He returned while officers were still at the hotel and admitted to knowingly breaching his quarantine requirements.
Among the breaches were a visit to a drive-through takeaway outlet while travelling from the airport to his accommodation, not wearing a mask while checking in to the hotel and not telling hotel staff he was under a self-quarantine order.
Police said in addition to visiting a supermarket and convenience store, he had also spent five hours at a city nightclub with the friend who had driven him from the airport.
He also admitted visiting Elizabeth Quay to take photos the next day.
He later tested negative for coronavirus.
A WA Police spokesman said the case should serve as a warning to anyone under a self-quarantine order.
“Based on yesterday’s court outcomes, these offenders can also expect a significant court-imposed penalty,” the spokesman said.
Police said in total, more than 200 people had been charged with breaching WA’s coronavirus restrictions and an additional 338 had been fined.
They warned those breaching coronavirus rules face penalties of up to $50,000 or 12 months’ imprisonment.
WA border closure ‘justified’: Cook
With New South Wales recording 18 new coronavirus cases overnight, Mr Cook said the situation vindicated his Government’s decision to reinstate its hard border with the state shortly before Christmas.
“You can certainly see that our hard border is an important element of keeping us safe,” he said.
“That’s allowed us to be insulated from the risks associated with the outbreaks in that state, and obviously is a very important part of making sure we keep Western Australians safe.”
He said the number of people who had arrived from NSW since the border was reinstated was “in the low hundreds”.
That was compared to the 5,000 people who arrived from other states just yesterday.
The hard border would remain in place for as long it takes for New South Wales to bring the virus under control, Mr Cook said.
“New South Wales has done a great job doing mass testing,” he said.
“That’s the best way to make sure that they can have line of sight of these outbreaks and get on top of them as quickly as possible.”
Defence Force ‘observe’ at hotels
More than 100 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel in WA remain tasked with assisting the State Government in responding to the virus.
Many are stationed at quarantine hotels, but Mr Cook said yesterday’s expanded powers for security guards would not include ADF personnel because of the “traditional division of powers”.
“They will not act in relation to a security situation unless explicitly instructed by police,” he said.
“That’s a long-standing arrangement that the defence forces have had with police forces. They don’t involve themselves in civic law and order matters.
“This isn’t a situation of our choosing, this is simply the arrangements required by the Commonwealth when they deploy the ADF in a civil situation.”
An ADF spokesperson confirmed the arrangement.
“The ADF are not authorised as law enforcement officers as this remains the responsibility of the states and territories,” she said.
“Members undertaking tasks like quarantine compliance monitoring are there to observe and report incidents to WA Police.”