01/02/2021 - 11:30

COVID-19 Wrap: NSW health order

01/02/2021 - 11:30

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The NSW government has been the latest to place restrictions on travellers from Western Australia after Perth and the South West entered lockdown yesterday.

Mark McGowan is due to give an update on WA's COVID situation today. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

The NSW government has been the latest to place restrictions on travellers from Western Australia after Perth and the South West entered lockdown yesterday.

Restrictions were imposed in those regions of WA at 6pm Sunday after a security guard at the Four Points by Sheraton quarantine hotel tested positive for the highly-contagious UK strain of COVID-19.

The state’s health department stated that travellers from WA that have been coming to NSW since January 25 would be placed under the same ‘stay-at-home’ restrictions as they would have faced had they stayed in WA. 

Passengers who arrived in Sydney on a flight from Perth on Sunday evening were screened for symptoms of COVID-19, but none had attended any of the venues of concern identified by WA Health. 

But the borders would not close, the government said.

During a press conference this morning, Premier Mark McGowan confirmed that no further local cases of COVID-19 had been recorded overnight and extensive testing had begun of 13 of the infected man’s close contacts; all returning a negative result.

Eleven of the 13 contacts are considered to be ‘high risk’ and are in hotel quarantine. 

A total of 66 of his close contacts have been tested, or will be, and remain in quarantine.

Investigation imminent

Mr McGowan confirmed that a review would be launched into the state’s hotel quarantine system and that WA Police would take charge of an investigation into this specific case, now being referred to as case 903.

However, the investigation won't be criminal.

Questions have been raised about how the incident could have happened, given the premier had told a packed press conference three weeks ago that staff working on the frontline would undergo daily saliva testing.

But the state government has since confirmed the new protocol had been launched as a pilot program at one hotel quarantining facility and had not yet been rolled-out at all sites.

Daily saliva testing did not begin at all hotel quarantining facilities until Friday January 29, the day after the man began experiencing symptoms and called in sick to work.

The state government and the Department of Health are in the process of putting measures in place to stop frontline workers from having a second job. 

Not yet briefed: Berejiklian

In her own press conference, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she had not yet had a formal briefing from WA.

“We’re taking the obvious precautions … but NSW has a standing policy of keeping our borders open, that’s what we’ll continue to do,” she said.

Ms Berejiklian said the state had been undertaking daily testing.

“We test our quarantine workers daily, every time we’ve had an audit of our system NSW has come out on top," she said.

“You cannot prevent people who work in the quarantine system, and there’s thousands of them going about their lives.

“The risk is always there, it’s important for us to do our daily checks.

“No system can be perfect in a pandemic.”

But Ms Berejiklian was not drawn into criticism of Mr McGowan, and said she wished the best for WA.

In the Northern Territory, 2,000 people who have entered from WA will be required to isolate until they recieve a negative test result.

Morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has signalled his backing of the state government’s lockdown announced yesterday, speaking at the National Press Club.

“I think one of the things we've learned is we cannot be too careful around these new strains,” Mr Morrison said, referring to the potential UK variant which a WA quarantine hotel guard may have contracted.

“There is so much still we don't understand about it and (it) can move very quick [sic]. 

“And you don't want to find yourself on the wrong end of that decision when it comes to how quickly you move, I think where these new strains are coming in.”

Mr Morrison also said he was confident WA could manage the outbreak.

“When Adelaide had their outbreak, it was the Western Australian contact tracers that came to their aid as well,” he said. 

“They've kept their contact tracing system match fit. 

“They haven't had the game time that many of the other states have had and I think they're pretty happy about that but, nevertheless the states have continued working on that and, through the National Cabinet, and particularly the work that we've done about quarantine systems support and tracing systems support, I think that leaves Australia in a pretty good spot.

“So you know they will get our support. I'm sure they will get on top of this just like the other states have.” 

He also hinted that the number of returning Australian travellers coming into the state may be reduced temporarily, after a similar measure was taken in Queensland.

'Grow up': Kirkup

Opposition leader Zak Kirkup says he, too, backs the state government’s decision to enter a five-day lockdown, hitting back at online critics.

During a press conference this afternoon, Mr Kirkup urged those critical of his decision to support the measures taken by the state government to “grow up” and act in the best interests of the community.

“I will continue to support and endorse the advice of the state’s chief health officer,” he said.

“The Liberal Party aren’t ‘swamp rats’ that deserve the abuse that is being thrown around online.

“We can handle it, but the reality is that you are detracting from the important message that needs to be out there and that’s to work together to respond to the restrictions together and help keep each other safe together.

“The Western Australian government has had the longest time of any government in the country to prepare for what we’re dealing with. 

“It has had the longest time to prepare to deal with a potential outbreak, so we should trust in their preparation and ability to respond to this.”

Mr Kirkup said the Liberal Party would work in full cooperation with the government to help keep WA safe, but did reiterate calls for an independent inquiry into the state’s handling of the coronavirus situation.

New virus tester

Perth-startup Avicena Systems is planning to manufacture and export a new high-speed COVID testing machine after it received support from the state government.

The company has secured $150,000 in state funding to support the fitout of a new 500 square metre manufacturing facility in West Perth.

Shows cancelled

Perth Festival has postponed all live performances until after the weekend and Fringe World Festival has cancelled all events until 6pm on Friday following the state government's decision to enter a five-day lockdown.

Perth Festival, which was supposed to start on Friday February 5, has announced its live festival performances would resume on Monday February 8, while Lotterywest film screenings and visual arts exhibitions would resume on Saturday February 6.

Yesterday, Fringe World announced its shows would be cancelled for the duration of the five-day lockdown and ticketholders would receive a refund.

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