The Western Australian lockdown will end at midnight Monday, as planned, only to be replaced by “interim restrictions”.
WA Premier Mark McGowan announced the move on Monday afternoon, after confirming no more cases of the coronavirus in the community.
“The short three-day lockdown has done the job it was designed to do. It was a circuit breaker we needed to limit community spread and keep our community healthy,” he said.
The interim COVID measures will last until at least Saturday.
“We need to be cautious as we come out of lockdown as the virus could still be out there. That is why a stepped approach is safe as the best way forward,” Mr McGowan said.
Stay-at-home orders for the Perth and Peel districts will be revoked and schools will reopen. However, people are still encouraged to work from home where possible.
Masks will remain mandatory across both districts, including for secondary school students.
There will also be capacity limits in venues such as pubs, restaurants, gyms and shops. Pubs and restaurants will be restricted to seated service.
“I know this makes it tough for many businesses,” Mr McGowan said.
“[But] I acknowledge that it is important we remain cautious and ease restrictions so we can get back to normal as soon as possible.”
Testing has surged in the region since the lockdown was imposed last Friday, hitting nearly 30,000 by Monday. Mr McGowan said it was important that high testing numbers continued.
Two locally-acquired cases have been confirmed in WA after the virus leaked out of the Mercure quarantine hotel last week.
By Monday afternoon, 222 of 354 designated close contacts had returned negative virus tests, with other results still to come.
Both he and his bride tested positive in hotel quarantine upon returning to Australia earlier in April.
Genomic testing has confirmed the virus spread from the couple to other guests in nearby rooms, including a Melbourne man who tested positive only after completing quarantine and spending several days with family friends in Perth.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews defended the wedding travel exemption amid a growing war of words between the state and federal governments.
“When the exemption was granted for that individual it was absolutely in line with the criteria at the time,” she told Perth radio 6PR on Monday.
“What we have done since that time is tighten it in terms of the criteria and the reasons for travel … a wedding would (now) be unlikely to be approved.”
Ms Andrews said travel was now permitted to India only if it was in the national interest, part of the COVID response or for medical treatment unavailable in Australia.
A female friend of the Melbourne man also tested positive after he stayed at her house upon leaving quarantine.
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On Saturday, a second locally-acquired case was detected – a man in his 40s who had dined at the same Kardinya restaurant as the Melbourne man. Mr McGowan said on Monday that 50 people from the restaurant had since returned negative virus tests.
Mr McGowan has criticised the federal government for not providing better quarantine facilities, saying CBD hotels are not suitable.
He wants Canberra to open air bases and Christmas Island to accommodate travellers, adding that it is the Commonwealth’s constitutional responsibility to handle the quarantine scheme.
Ms Andrews said the facilities were not fit for purpose and Mr McGowan should focus on finding constructive solutions.
“The tit-for-tat politics is not helping Australians and it really just needs to stop,” she said.
But the Premier has the backing of some of the country’s most senior doctors.
Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller described hotel quarantine as an abuse of human rights.
“The issue is that hotel quarantine isn’t fit for purpose,” he told ABC radio on Monday.
Dr Miller said federal experts were being “grossly negligent” and urgent change was needed.
“Hotels cannot be made safe for COVID-19 positive people,” he said.
“Governments need to put money into building mining camps – I’m told it can be done within a couple of months.
“And put everyone into N95 masks tomorrow. It’s all low-hanging fruit, frankly.”
The organisation’s national president, Omar Khorshid, also criticised hotel quarantine.
“If there is something to be upset about, [it’s the] failure again of hotel quarantine,” he told the Nine Network’s Today program.
“These facilities are not built for these purposes, they’re not perfect.
“We agree with Premier McGowan [that] more specific facilities should be made available.”