WA premier furious that residents are travelling overseas as Covid lockdown continues
Western Australia has reported no new community cases of coronavirus on day two of a snap lockdown for Perth and the Peel region, as the premier, Mark McGowan, blamed the federal government for allowing too many Australians to travel overseas to attend “weddings” and “athletics meets” during the pandemic.
“I don’t get why that should be allowed,” the premier said on Sunday.
McGowan announced there had been no new locally acquired cases but said there was one additional case in hotel quarantine. They were a “returning resident who has travelled back from India”.
The WA health minister, Roger Cook, said a decision on lifting the three-day lockdown would be made on Monday morning, following advice from the state’s chief health officer.
But McGowan said “people should get used to the prospect that there will be some further measures that continue beyond Monday”.
Earlier on Sunday morning, the defence minister, Peter Dutton, said the WA government had made a “mistake” by using the Mercure Perth hotel where the latest outbreak originated.
Dutton told the ABC’s Insiders program the hotel had previously been identified as being unsuitable but the state had other options available and the commonwealth wouldn’t be opening up military bases to house returned travellers as McGowan had suggested.
In his Sunday afternoon press conference, McGowan pushed back, stating: “It’s a bit rich for them to blame us when we are doing their [quarantine] job.”
McGowan blamed the federal government for allowing Australians to travel out of the country to “Covid-infected countries”.
It’s been reported the man who was the first case of the latest cluster had travelled to India for a wedding and returned to quarantine at the Mercure Perth. His partner subsequently tested positive as did a 54-year-old Victorian man who had been staying in an adjacent room at the hotel.
McGowan on Sunday said some Australians had been allowed to go overseas “to a wedding or an athletics meet or a funeral”.
“When someone says they are going to a funeral, the commonwealth just trusts them and lets them go,” he said. “If people want to go overseas to Covid-infected countries in the middle of a pandemic … I don’t get why that should be allowed.”
McGowan said the federal government should fund commonwealth quarantine facilities if they allowed people to go overseas. “It is actually their responsibility and they do have facilities built for this purpose,” he said.
The premier said that the federal government had agreed to halve the state’s arrival cap for the next month after he declared the current rate of 1,025 returning travellers per week was “not sustainable”.
“I asked the commonwealth to halve our international arrivals for at least a month,” the WA premier said.
“This request has been accepted. However, the reduction in our weekly cap will only begin from Thursday morning.
“The reduced cap of 512 per week will stay in place until 30 May. However, if the commonwealth is unable to assist with proper quarantine facilities, I am reluctant to return to the full 1,025 per week cap.”
The state conducted 11,859 tests in the past 24 hours and vaccinated 316 people on Saturday. McGowan said that there were a total of 359 close and casual contacts of the confirmed cases.
Of the 303 close contacts, 73 people have returned negative results. Of the 56 casual contacts, 13 had returned a negative result.