Embattled West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has slammed Scott Morrison for allowing a man to break closed international borders to travel to India only to return with coronavirus and wreak havoc on the state’s quarantine system.
Perth and Peel have been in snap lockdowns since midnight on Friday after multiple locally-acquired cases of the virus spread through the city after a man in hotel quarantine was infected due to a positive case in the hotel room opposite.
McGowan labelled the federal government’s policy on exceptions for international travel as ‘nuts’, particularly to covid-19 hotspots including India which has recently been ravaged by a new wave.
‘The person in the hotel the other day who was infectious had recently gone to India, who passed it onto the people across the corridor,’ he said on Saturday.
‘It was not his fault that it spread across the corridor. But the fact of the matter is the Commonwealth let him go to India recently.’
New Zealand have temporarily suspended all incoming flights from India as the country experiences a spike in cases that saw nearly 350,000 new cases on Friday with more than 2,600 deaths.
WA Premier Mark McGowan has slammed Scott Morrison and the federal government for international policies he describes as ‘nuts’
India has experienced a spike in cases that saw nearly 350,000 new cases on Friday with more than 2,600 deaths
Mr McGowan said Scott Morrison (pictured on Thursday) and the Federal Government needed to help the states more with hotel quarantine
McGowan says it is a complete hypocrisy on the part of Morrison’s government that Australians are allowed to travel abroad to hotspots for weddings and funerals when they haven’t been allowed to attend such events in their own country.
‘People (are) even going off to athletics carnivals in parts of Africa and Europe overrun with Covid, and then they want to come back of course,’ he said.
‘It is a risk and so that has to obviously stop.’
Mr McGowan criticised the commonwealth government on Saturday for making the states shoulder the burden of hotel quarantine.
‘I have been calling for commonwealth assistance for hotel quarantine for months now,’ he said.
‘I’m getting to the end of my tether.’
However he was issued a swift rebuke, with Canberra saying states and territories had agreed more than a year ago to manage hotel quarantine under their health orders.
‘As the premier has been advised, and as health, defence and border force officials have detailed to the parliament, defence bases and immigration centres are unsuitable for quarantining returning Australians,’ a spokesperson said.
Unacceptable health risk to defence personnel, shared bedrooms and bathrooms and distance from intensive care services are key reasons why defence facilities cannot be considered, the spokesperson said.
Mass cremations are being carried out across India as a new wave of the coronavirus brings the country to its knees
A member of the public has sample taken at a busy drive through covid testing site in Inglewood, Perth
From midnight residents in the Perth and Peel region will be locked down until Tuesday morning, meaning Anzac Day dawn services are cancelled
Mr McGowan suggested Commonwealth facilities at Curtin Air Base near Derby could hold 1500 people, or Christmas Island could be used as a quarantine site.
‘CBD hotel quarantine is not fit for purpose,’ he said.
Mr McGowan is seeking to limit WA’s international arrivals to 512 a week for the next month.
His comments came hours before Western Australia announced one new locally-acquired Covid case in a person who came forward for testing after visiting one of the Perth exposure sites attended by the confirmed Victorian case.
The Western Australian premier said in a press conference on Saturday as the state entered its first day of lockdown that the federal government needed to ‘step up’.
Perth residents wear face masks in the CBD on Friday (pictured) just before the state went into a three-day lockdown
‘I have said before and I will say it again, we pay for these hotels. The state governments, not the Commonwealth, are picking up the costs of these hotel quarantine facilities.’
Mr McGowan said CBD hotels were not ‘fit-for-purpose’ as isolation facilities and quarantine was the Commonwealth’s responsibility under the Constitution.
He added with coronavirus looking to remain a problem at least until the end of 2021, a strong quarantine system remained a priority.
It would also be ‘inappropriate’ to have Australian travellers alongside non-citizens in immigration detention, many of whom have committed serious crimes such as sexual assault, the government argued.
Mr McGowan also lashed out at the government for allowing Australians to travel to high-risk countries and said this had happened in recent weeks with travellers bringing the virus back from India.
The government said it was addressing this by restricting the flow of people out of Australia and reducing the flow of people returning from high-risk countries.
Before the locally-acquired case was detected Western Australia had reported no new coronavirus cases on Saturday as two million people in the Perth and Peel regions went into a three-day lockdown.
The measure, which is to end after Monday, was sparked after a returned Australian tested positive after spending five days in Perth.
He tested negative before being released from his 14-days isolation but tested positive after flying home to Melbourne days later.
Health officials said they have identified 71 close contacts of the returned traveller who will have all been tested by Saturday night – with 27 of those already returning negative tests.
Victoria’s Covid-19 commander Jeroen Weimar confirmed the 54-year-old man’s spouse, his two children and one child’s friend all returned negative test results as they continue to self-isolate.
A Western Australia Health Department review into its hotel quarantine facilities and their ventilation on April 8th found the Mercure Hotel to be the most at risk of transmission
There are also 109 casual contacts of the man identified and another 157 other contacts that are pending classification.
The returned traveller tested negative throughout his quarantine period at Perth’s Mercure Hotel and then moved freely in the city for five days before going to Melbourne aboard a Qantas flight.
Some 265 fellow passengers, crew and ground staff associated with QF778 have been contacted by Victorian health authorities and told to get tested and self-isolate for two weeks.
‘We spoke to around 200 of them last night and those conversations have continued this morning, and will continue throughout today and the weekend,’ Mr Weimar told reporters on Saturday.
Of those, 49 people have already tested negative. They will still have to remain in self-isolation for 14 days.
WA Premier Mark McGowan (pictured) announced on Friday the snap lockdown would be effective from midnight
WESTERN AUSTRALIA’S LOCKDOWN RULES EXPLAINED
* Perth Metropolitan and Peel regions have entered a three-day lockdown from midnight on Friday.
* People must stay at home unless shopping for essential supplies such as groceries, attending to medical or healthcare needs, exercising with one other person for up to an hour in your neighbourhood, or attending work if working remotely is not possible.
* No visitors allowed in homes unless caring for a vulnerable person or in an emergency.
* Masks to be worn at all times outside of home, including at work, on public transport and while doing non-vigorous exercise.
* Anzac Day dawn services to be cancelled, with people instead encouraged to stand at the end of their driveways.
* Casinos, nightclubs, entertainment venues and public venues all required to close.
* Community sport not permitted. No crowds at professional sporting events.
* Restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars to provide takeaway service only.
* Weddings and funerals permitted with a limit of 100 attendees.
* People should not leave the combined Perth and Peel regions during this period.
* Others can enter those regions only to access or deliver essential health and emergency services, or other essential needs.
* No visitors to hospitals, residential aged care or disability facilities unless there are exceptional circumstances.
WA Police have been out enforcing the lockdown on Saturday with a $1,000 fine issued to a woman at Friday night’s rugby game who refused to wear a mask.
They also turned back 60 vehicles that tried to leave the state without valid exemption passes.
In Victoria, their permit system has allowed officials to track down and text 5442 people who have entered the state from locked-down metropolitan Perth or the Peel region over the past week.
They have been ordered to self-isolate until they return a negative result, with the districts classified ‘orange’ zones from April 17 to April 23.
Anyone who transited through Terminal 1 at Melbourne Airport between 6.30pm and 7.30pm on Wednesday has also been instructed to get tested and isolate until they get a negative result.
His case was among two new infections reported by Victoria’s Department of Health on Saturday, following 13,000 tests.
It was officially classed as an interstate acquired case, meaning the state’s streak without any community transmission has been extended to 57 days.
The other is an overseas acquired case in hotel quarantine.
A woman at the Western Force v Queensland Reds Super Rugby game in Perth was slapped with a $1,000 fine on Friday after she argued with police about not wearing a mask