/ 01 February 2021

Western Australia locks down – hard

Just as Australia recorded its longest period of no new cases of community transmission of the coronavirus since February last year, 2 million Western Australians have started a 5-day hard lockdown. It’s the result of a quarantine hotel security guard testing positive to the virus – officials fear he has the highly contagious UK variant, but that’s to be confirmed. An investigation into how the man in his 20s got the virus is underway. It’s a shock for the state after going 10 months without a locally-acquired case of COVID-19.

From 6pm yesterday, residents of Perth and the South West/Peel regions are staying home for at least this week, Premier Mark McGowan announced. They are allowed to leave home for the Big 4 (shopping, exercise, caring for people/seeking medical care, and work if you can’t WFH), and a mask must be worn. Pubs and clubs are closed, and restaurants and cafes can do takeaway only. And in a coup for school kids, the start of Term 1 has been put back a week. As for WA’s federal pollies who flew into Canberra yesterday – they must quarantine in their accommodation until Friday. Other states have also responded with restrictions on travellers from the impacted areas. PM Scott Morrison, who will today outline a $1.9 billion plan to roll out COVID vaccinations, thanked WA residents for doing their bit “as we all work to fight this terrible virus.”

Indeed, the one-way travel bubble was restarted yesterday. The bubble’s 6-day suspension came after 3 cases of the South African variant were detected in the NZ community. No further cases have been reported, so Australia’s health officials have determined that restarting the travel bubble was “sufficiently low risk”. Still, pre and post-flight screening will be implemented for all flights from New Zealand for the next 10 days, including a check that travellers are not close contacts of the known cases. It’s also happier days for Greater Sydney residents who are looking to travel to Queensland without quarantining – that’s possible from today after restrictions were put in place on 21 December.

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