All states and territories moved on Sunday night to impose restrictions on those arriving from Perth after large parts of WA entered a five-day lockdown.
In particular, it emerged a number of federal politicians, including Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and Attorney-General Christian Porter, were on a Qantas 737-838 flight to Canberra and will now have to isolate in the capital.
It follows a quarantine hotel security guard in WA testing positive for what is believed to be the more transmittable, British strain of COVID. The infection is the first locally acquired case WA has seen in 10 months.
On Sunday night it emerged:
- SA has imposed a hard border with WA, banning anyone from arriving unless they are an essential worker. Residents returning from WA are required to go into quarantine for 14 days;
- NSW will ask all those who have arrived in NSW since 25 January from WA to follow the same stay at home orders they would have done if they had stayed in the state. Anyone who has been in places of concern will be asked to undergo testing and isolate for 14 days;
- Tasmania has asked anyone who has been at a high-risk exposure site on or since 25 January to self-isolate in their accommodation. Anyone who has been at a high-risk exposure site in the last 13 days will not be permitted to enter Tasmania;
- Victoria has asked those who have arrived from the Perth or Peel region and the south-west of WA to isolate until they get a negative test;
- Queensland is asking those who have been to the same three areas as above to go into 14-day hotel quarantine;
- The ACT has banned non-residents from WA from arriving, and has asked its own residents to self-quarantine if they have been to a hotspot area; and
- In the NT, anyone who has been to a WA hotspot since 25 January must be tested and remain isolated until they get a negative result.
The incident itself involved a male security guard who worked in a hotel quarantine and tested positive after developing symptoms on 28 January.
Significantly, he worked on a floor at the Sheraton Four Points hotel in Perth where there were two positive cases of the UK variant of COVID.
“We’re advised that he may have been a driver for one of the rideshare companies. We’re also advised that he has not worked since he … worked last time in the hotel,” WA Premier Mark McGowan said.
“The last time he worked in the hotel was Wednesday, but we’re advised – and this has been carefully followed – that he did not do any other work in the time since.”
It subsequently emerged hotel quarantine workers in the state were not being tested daily until this week.
Significantly, the five-day lockdown caught out politicians who were on a flight from WA to Canberra on Sunday afternoon, including Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ben Morton, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and Attorney-General Christian Porter. They will now have to quarantine in Canberra as if they stayed in WA.
The Boeing 737-838, VH-VZL msn 34194, departed Perth at 12:15pm on 31 January as flight QF856 and landed in Canberra at 6:37pm.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro used the announcement of the five-day lockdown to argue that slamming borders shut to eliminate COVID was a futile exercise if you are allowing Australians to return on flights.
“NSW has been managing the COVID risk brought by international travellers for more than 12 months. WA is now experiencing that and I feel for the citizens going into lockdown,” said Deputy Premier Barilaro.
“WA’s hard domestic border lock down has proved pointless. I strongly recommend the WA Premier considers adopting the NSW strategy to manage this virus – because today WA has learnt firsthand an elimination strategy is unrealistic.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, however, thanked WA for their patience.
“The coming days will be difficult for many Western Australians but we’re confident WA will be able to get on top of the current outbreak,” said PM Morrison. “A big thank you to everyone in WA for your patients and co-operation as we all work to fight this terrible virus.”
The news of the potential cluster comes just a few months after Premier McGowan announced he was replacing his hard border with what he termed a “controlled border”.
From 14 November 2019, people were able to enter WA without quarantine from areas that had no community transmission in 28 days.
Those from states with a rolling average of less than five will be asked to quarantine at a “suitable premise” for 14 days and take a COVID test on day 11.
All entrants may be asked to take a test, temperature check and fill out a border declaration.
The significant relaxation of measures came as a surprise given that the state pointedly refused to sign up to a national cabinet agreement pledging to open Australia by Christmas 2019.
“I wouldn’t be taking these steps unless the health advice was completely clear. I personally think the biggest threat to the country now is the importation of the virus from overseas,” Premier McGowan said at the time.
He since reimposed a hard border when states suffered COVID outbreaks.