The residents of a Maylands apartment complex in Perth say they were “left in the dark” about the new COVID-19 outbreak despite being neighbours of the new “Patient Zero”.
The security guard who contracted the virus, sending parts of Western Australia into a snap lockdown, lives in the building with three housemates.
Some residents told 9News they only learned of the outbreak online and weren’t made a priority when attending COVID testing clinics.
Some are even still waiting on results, with tests only done late this afternoon.
It comes as medical staff call for 24-hour testing clinics, with thousands lining up for the swab in the wake of the outbreak.
The whole Perth metropolitan area, the Peel region and the south-west region were placed in a hard lockdown at 6pm last night.
WA Premier Mark McGowan called the snap lockdown after the young male security guard tested positive to COVID-19.
It appears possible the case has the highly transmissible new UK variant.
Mr McGowan said the state recorded no new COVID-19 cases in either the community or hotel quarantine.
He said an investigation is also under way into how the hotel quarantine worker picked up the virus.
“We have had a number of reviews of our COVID-19 systems, including from our Auditor-General, the National review into hotel quarantine which was released by National Cabinet and the National contact tracing review. All these reviews found our systems to be sound,” he said.
“However, given the latest incident, a further review of the WA’s Hotel quarantine arrangements, processes and procedures will be undertaken immediately including any learnings from incidents in other states and internationally and recent incidents in WA.”
Mr McGowan said the review will be led by the former Chief Health Officer, Tarun Weeramanthri, and also Professor Finkel.
“WA police will make a full investigation into how this happened,” he said.
“WA police will allocate strong resources into this investigation. They have the forensic expertise, the forensic expertise to do the work that is required.
“This will run in parallel with the review led by the former Chief Health Officer. We will leave no stone unturned to ensure we find out exactly what happened to prevent it from happening again.”
WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said the inquiry into the case is complimentary to the Department of Health and their contact tracing.
“It is not a criminal investigation,” Mr Dawson said.
“This particular individual has been very mobile in the community and we need to establish very clearly not only what happened at the hotel but his movements, when, where and with whom and that will I think certainly assist us in all understanding with who this person was moving and what initially happened at the hotel.”
Mr Dawson says WA’s hotel quarantine system had a perfect track record until now.
“What we do know is that since April last year, there has been zero contact that has been between workers at the quarantine hotels that has resulted in any infection, so for nearly 10 months, we’ve had a tremendous system,” he said.
However, new highly infection strains of COVID-19 had changed matters and the guard’s infection warranted a new investigation.
“I think what it is, the concern that the cheap health Officer has briefed us on, the variant strain here is on the advice, 50- 70 percent more transmissible, so clearly the environment has changed. That is the purpose of this review,” he said.
He said there was no evidence the security guard had entered any of the hotel rooms.
However, there was also no evidence to suggest that the virus had been transmitted through the hotel’s air conditioning system, he said.
“I can say there is nothing in the air conditioning systems on the Chief Health Officer’s advice, we had a conversation about that this morning, about it being aerosolised, there is no science that says it must have negative pressure rooms,” he said.
“It is physically not possible in these places.”
Supermarket hours extended
Mr McGowan has urged Western Australians to avoid panic buying at supermarkets, saying it is simply not necessary.
“I have to say I was disappointed to see some of the vision of people panicked by yesterday, there’s just no need for it,” he said.
“I urge people to be reasonable, and only take what you need too. Think about elderly’s citizens who may not be able to get to the shops easily. There will be enough supplies for everyone.
“To assist I can confirm we have permitted Coles and Woolworths to open an hour earlier over the course of this week.
“This is to help older Western Australians, to help limit the rush. Please check if your local store is opening earlier, as that is up to each individual store. Can I say again, the most important thing is for everyone to remain calm, and refrain from panic buying. It is completely unnecessary.”
More than 3100 COVID-19 tests were conducted in public clinics overnight.
“We need to get more tests done… There has been extensive testing of the close contacts of the contacts of the positive case and that will continue,” he said.
“Those contacts have tested negative.”
He said eleven high risk contacts have been moved into high hotel quarantine as extra precaution.
“In total to date we have identified 66 close contacts, all of which have been tested, or will be today, will in quarantine,” he said.
“As the contact tracing team does further worker, the number of close contacts could also increase. These are encouraging signs but it is still early days.”
Hotel quarantine workers and second jobs
Mr McGowan said the government had been working on the problem of hotel quarantine workers working second jobs for months and was close to a resolution.
The infected security guard is believed to have been working as a rideshare driver, however, police commissioner Chris Dawson said there was no evidence that he worked any shifts while infectious.
“We expect we will get to a resolution in the course of next week and it may well involve initial payments for people who work in the hotels and the quarantine hotels, in particular those who are required to be tested,” he said.
He said it was a complex issue, and one that was hard to enforce, but the government had been working with private security companies on it.