A paramedic, a nurse and a third person are all in hotel quarantine in Perth after coming into contact with a COVID-19 patient who recently returned from the United Kingdom.
The woman, in her 80s, arrived from the UK on January 2 already showing symptoms of the virus and subsequently tested positive.
Genomic testing is under way but it is not yet known if she has the more virulent strain that has caused havoc in Britain.
The woman was initially placed in hotel quarantine, but her condition required a transfer to the Royal Perth Hospital on Tuesday. She is now considered stable.
Media statement: COVID-19 update – 06 January 2021 PPE breach https://t.co/8OJmAuLQEi
— WA Health (@WAHealth) January 6, 2021
Health officials say when the woman first required medical assistance a nurse responded while not wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE), in breach of protocols.
The second breach occurred when a St John Ambulance officer not wearing PPE was less than 1.5 metres from the woman as she was transferred into an ambulance.
A review of CCTV footage at Perth Airport subsequently found a third person had also gone to the aid of the woman when she first arrived.
That person has returned a negative test for the virus so far and remains in isolation.
This is our WA COVID-19 update for Wednesday, 6 January 2021.
— Mark McGowan (@MarkMcGowanMP) January 6, 2021
State Health Incident Co-ordination Centre Incident Controller Robyn Lawrence said processes were put into place immediately following the breaches to protect the health of the WA community.
“The health and safety of the WA community is the No.1 priority of the state, and any breach of process is unacceptable,” Dr Lawrence said.
“I want to reassure people that public health acted immediately, and both people (the nurse and the paramedic) were placed into quarantine before the virus could incubate or be transmitted to other people.”
Dr Lawrence said the low numbers of COVID-19 in WA were no excuse for complacency and breaches could lead to community transmission.
The woman’s case came after WA officials confirmed earlier this week that three people who also spent time in hotel quarantine in Perth had subsequently been found to have had the more transmissible UK COVID-19 strain.
They have since recovered and been released from isolation.
NSW, Victoria and South Australia had all previously recorded cases of the UK variant in returned overseas travellers.
It is believed to be up to 70 per cent more infectious, causing a sharp rise in cases in England and prompting British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to order a new national lockdown until at least mid-February.
In light of the current circumstances, Premier Mark McGowan said he would support a ban on Australians returning from the UK if that was recommended by health officials and proposed by the federal government.
“The federal government controls international borders. So it’s really up to them as to whether or not they wish to do it,” he said.
“Obviously it’s a pretty extreme measure. But if the health advisers told us we needed to do that, well then that’s what we should do.”