27/04/2021 - 09:45

No new cases, lockdown costs WA $70m

27/04/2021 - 09:45

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As those in the Perth and Peel regions emerge from the three-day lockdown, the state government has turned its attention to the economic fallout.

No new cases, lockdown costs WA $70m
Mark McGowan has confirmed WA's third consecutive day without any new locally acquired cases of COVID-19. Photo: David Henry

As those in the Perth and Peel regions emerge from the three-day lockdown, the state government has turned its attention to the economic fallout, currently estimated at about $70 million.

During a press conference this morning, Premier Mark McGowan confirmed Western Australia had recorded its third consecutive day without any new locally acquired cases of COVID-19.

While acknowledging that was good news, Mr McGowan warned the escalating situation in India was putting pressure on the state's hotel quarantine system.

Four new cases and one suspected case have been recorded in hotel quarantine overnight, all having flown on flight MH125, which arrived in Perth from Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.

Of the 79 passengers onboard the flight, 78 had recently been in India, which is grappling with a second wave of the virus and recorded more than 350,000 new cases on Sunday alone.

Mr McGowan said health authorities feared the number of cases within the cohort would increase and, potentially, grow exponentially.

Those in the Perth and Peel regions returned to work and schools resumed this morning after the state government announced a gradual easing of lockdown restrictions yesterday, with masks still mandatory and capacity limits in place for venues until 12.01am on Saturday May 1, as the state waits for the 14-day incubation period of the virus to come to an end.

About 2 million Western Australians went into a snap three-day lockdown on Friday after Victorian authorities confirmed that a Melbourne man had tested for COVID-19 after landing in Melbourne from Perth on April 21.

The man, who had returned from Shanghai, tested negative for the virus on day 12 before leaving quarantine at Mercure Hotel Perth on April 17; a hotel at the centre of a COVID outbreak earlier this month.

The lockdown was enforced after a close contact of the man, a Kardinya woman in her 40s, tested positive for the virus; the state’s first case of community transmission in more than a year.

The following day, a second person tested positive for the virus, a man in his 40s, causing the number of potential exposure sites to swell and tens of thousands of Western Australians to undergo testing.

Attention is now turning to the economic impact of the latest lockdown, which Mr McGowan concedes will be in the tens of millions of dollars.

Treasury’s current estimate is $70 million, but the state government is still in the process of analysing the data available.

But Mr McGowan defended the decision to lock down the regions, arguing that if the virus had been able to spread it would have resulted in a prolonged lockdown that would cost the state many billions and forced tens of thousands of people out of their jobs.

The state's last five-day lockdown in February caused retail sales to fall 5.4 per cent in that month, about seven times the national average.Nonetheless, retail sales were 10.5 per cent higher in February 2021 than the same month in 2020, at more than $3.2 billion seasonally adjusted, showing that consumers had shaken off fears about the pandemic.

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