Western Australia will remain on its transition out of lockdown if isolated COVID-19 cases emerge over the coming week, the state’s Health Minister says.
WA has posted a fifth consecutive day of no new community COVID-19 cases on Friday, meaning metropolitan Perth, the Peel region and South West will end their five-day lockdown at 6pm (local time).
Federal officials in Canberra announced the latest figures before Premier Mark McGowan’s scheduled press conference.
Mr McGowan has confirmed a range of restrictions will remain for Perth and Peel until 12.01am on Sunday, February 14.
All residents, including teachers and high school students, must continue to wear masks while outside their homes, except during vigorous outdoor exercise.
The state government has defended forcing more than two million people into lockdown over what has proved to be just be one case – that of a security guard at the Sheraton Four Points hotel who unwittingly roamed the streets of Perth while infectious.
But Health Minister Roger Cook believes any isolated cases that emerge in coming days won’t result in the lockdown being reinstated.
“In the coming week, if we have a positive case – particularly if it’s among one of the close contacts, we know that person would have been isolated, we know that person would have been tested extensively so we have great insights,” he told Perth radio 6PR on Friday.
“In that instance, we certainly wouldn’t back down on our transition out of this.”
Mr Cook said the government hadn’t taken any of its actions lightly.
“The Premier and I hate making these decisions,” he said.
“They are horrible decisions, they interfere with people’s lives, families, events such as weddings … we make them only on the best possible health advice and only if they’re absolutely necessary.”
From 6pm Friday in Perth and the Peel region, a 20-person limit will be imposed on all private indoor gatherings, while a four-square-metre rule and a cap of 150 attendees will apply to hospitality and retail venues and weddings.
Restaurants, pubs and bars can have only seated service and only essential travel is permitted in and out of the combined restricted zone.
No restrictions will apply to the South West.
“I wish we could just snap back immediately to the life we had last week but doing so would be too risky,” Mr McGowan said in a late-night media briefing on Thursday.
“I don’t want a rolling, long-term lockdown. We have to do everything we can to prevent that.”
Almost 43,000 tests have been conducted in WA throughout the five-day lockdown.
Officials are continuing to investigate how the guard contracted the highly contagious British strain of the virus from a sick guest.
The guard had been stationed on a chair about three metres from the guest’s room but they are not believed to have had any face-to-face contact.
Authorities believe the guest might have transmitted the virus through either airborne transmission or surface contamination.
Anyone working in a “high-risk situation” in quarantine hotels is now required to wear a face mask and protective eyewear at all times.
The government will also introduce saliva tests between shifts for hotel quarantine workers.
SA drops hard border to Perth
South Australia has dropped its hard border with WA on Friday and will now welcome travellers from Greater Perth.
Premier Steven Marshall said arrivals from previously designated hotspots in WA – Perth, the Peel region and the South West – will still need to get tested for COVID-19 on days, one, five and 12.
They must isolate until they receive a negative result from the first test.
Anyone from WA currently in quarantine in SA will be allowed to leave, unless they have visited the Four Points Hotel in Perth.
Victoria downgrades WA ‘hotspot’
Victoria will also ease its hard closure to Greater Perth, with changes to come into effect from 9pm on Friday.
The Perth metropolitan area, the Peel region and the South West region will be downgraded from a red zone to an orange zone under Victoria’s ‘traffic light’ system.
People in orange zones can apply for a permit to enter the state if they have not been in close contact with a positive case of COVID-19 and do not have symptoms.
Orange zone permit holders must isolate upon arrival until they have received a negative COVID test.