WA authorities believe a security guard infected with the virulent British COVID strain might have contracted it while delivering medication to a returned traveller in hotel quarantine.
Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan said the guard had worked on the same floor of the Sheraton Four Points as a guest with the highly contagious COVID strain.
“We are advised that the guards did deliver medication to the door of this particular quarantine guest,” he said.
“Further investigations are under way to try to track down exactly how the case was transmitted.”
The breakthrough came as Western Australia notched a second straight day without community cases of COVID, after record numbers of people turned out for testing during Perth’s snap lockdown.
Premier Mark McGowan said 15,496 people were tested for COVID across WA on Monday.
“This result on day one of lockdown is an amazing number. Thank you to everyone who came forward and got tested. You have all done your state proud,” he said on Tuesday.
“This is our second zero in an row day now. Given the amount of testing completed, this is a very encouraging piece of news.”
One more historic case of the virus was confirmed on Tuesday. Mr McGowan said the man had travelled from Mexico, and via NSW to Perth.
He is not considered to have been infectious in WA.
Meanwhile, extensive testing and contact tracing of the security guard who sparked the lockdown has continued. More than 150 close contacts have been identified, along with a further 68 casual contacts.
Mr McGowan said each was being tested, with 104 negative results returned by midday Tuesday (local time).
Earlier, state health authorities defended their hotel quarantine program, denying any “bungle” had allowed the guard from the Sheraton in Perth’s CBD to be out and about for days after contracting the virus.
He attended more than a dozen venues over several days while infectious, despite being unwell enough to have called in sick to work.
The man, aged in his 20s, eventually went to a doctors’ clinic in Nedlands and got a COVID test.
The confirmed infection metropolitan Perth, the neighbouring Peel region and WA’s South West into a five-day lockdown that is scheduled to last until at least 6pm on Friday.
On Tuesday, WA health incident coordinator Robyn Lawrence claimed the guard “did everything right”, despite him failing to isolate when he first fell ill.
“He was unwell, he stayed home, he sought medical advice and then subsequently the following day when he was still unwell, sought a COVID test,” she told Perth radio 6PR.
“There is no bungle at this point in time.
“I will agree that the State Health Incident Control Centre is responsible for the hotel quarantine program and we take that responsibility incredibly seriously.”
Following the medication delivery link, WA health authorities have closed the Sheraton Four Points to all new overseas arrivals.
Mr McGowan said anyone who remained in quarantine at the hotel would have to stay there until they had produced a further negative COVID test. People released from the hotel as far back as January 25 have been told to self-quarantine and wait for a negative test result.
“These are all extra precautions we’re putting in place as we have learned from COVID-19 that you cannot take anything for granted,” he said.
Also on Tuesday, the WA government announced a new program to ensure security guards were financially secure and did not have to take second jobs.
Health Minister Roger Cook told ABC Radio Perth the new arrangements would be in place next week.
“All our COVID arrangements are guided by experts in public health and infection control officials,” he said.
Earlier, Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller said it was “50-50” as to whether an extension to the lockdown would be needed.
“We’re hoping for doughnut days throughout the week – all zeros – and then perhaps that will be enough,” he said.
“But we will know by then whether we’re looking at a cluster or clusters, which will require a longer period of time.”