No new cases as WA awaits lockdown update

Australia has recorded no new community COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours as West Australians wait to learn whether they will be freed from lockdown.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed the news ahead of Premier Mark McGowan’s media conference scheduled for 1230 local time.

Perth and the Peel region are due to emerge from the three-day lockdown at midnight but the premier has flagged that some restrictions will remain.

Two locally-acquired cases have been confirmed after the virus leaked out of the Mercure quarantine hotel last week.

Authorities were on Sunday still waiting to clear more than 270 close and casual contacts of the local cases, some of whom had not yet been tested.

The guest at the Mercure whose infection led to the outbreak had travelled to India last December to attend his own wedding.

Both he and his bride tested positive in hotel quarantine upon returning to Australia earlier this month.

Genomic testing has confirmed the virus spread from the couple to several other guests in nearby rooms, including a Melbourne man who did not test positive until after he had completed quarantine and spent five days in the community.

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 only permitted to India 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.

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.

His household contacts have been cleared of the virus, but authorities have extended the list of possible transmission sites, including a childcare centre, based on his recent activities.

The premier was expecting more than 12,000 COVID tests to be completed on Sunday.

“We’ll get health advice … and I think people should get used to the prospect that there will be some further measures continue beyond Monday,” he said.

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 the WA premier should focus on finding constructive solutions.

“The tit-for-tat politics is not helping Australians and it really just needs to stop,” she said.

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