WA is imposing a hard border with Queensland after a hotel quarantine cleaner in Brisbane tested positive for the very contagious UK strain of COVID-19.
The cleaner is believed to have been in the community for five days while infectious and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Friday that Greater Brisbane would go into lockdown for three days.
WA Premier Mark McGowan said the situation was “extremely concerning” as he announced that anyone from Queensland who wanted to visit his state would require an exemption starting from 12.01am on Saturday.
Exempt travellers will be tested upon arrival, must self-quarantine for two weeks and be tested again on day 11.
“This is a dangerous situation, not only for Queensland but for the whole of Australia,” Mr McGowan told reporters on Friday.
WA is taking the most extreme measure of any jurisdiction, with many others opting for the hotspot model, but Mr McGowan said that was because “COVID-19 does not respect postcodes”.
WA Premier Mark McGowan says Australia is on high alert. Picture: AAP Image/Richard WainwrightSource:AAP
Mr McGowan said evidence showed the mutant UK strain was 70 per cent more infectious than other strains of coronavirus.
“This strain is now setting a whole new benchmark in our fight against COVID-19. The rule book continues to evolve,” he said.
“We cannot hesitate. We cannot sit back and wait and watch.
“We need to move fast. Queensland and the whole of Australia are on high alert.”
WA already has a hard border in place for NSW and Victoria, and under its new border rules Queensland will move from a very low risk state to a medium risk.
About 7500 people who had been in Queensland since January 2 before coming to WA must self-quarantine for two weeks, be tested by Tuesday and again on day 11 of self-quarantine.
A further 1400 passengers will arrive in WA from Queensland on Friday and they will be tested upon arrival at the airport. They must also quarantine for 14 days.
Only exempt travellers from Queensland will be allowed to enter WA starting on Saturday. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Tony McDonoughSource:Supplied
Anyone who has been in contact with recent arrivals from Queensland are not required to quarantine and only need to be tested if they develop symptoms.
Mr McGowan said those affected by the border rule changes could leave self-quarantine to depart WA and return home provided they went straight to the airport.
“This is a whole new beast and we must take action to prevent this deadly virus from spreading into our community,” Mr McGowan said.
“I think we all thought the worst of COVID-19 was behind us, but 2021 now looks a lot like 2020 right now.”
The Premier again urged WA residents not to travel interstate unless necessary and reiterated he would shut the state border completely if that was the health advice.
It has also been announced that masks will be mandatory at Perth Airport and on all domestic flights, including flights within WA. The Premier has urged everyone to buy a reusable mask.
WA’s weekly cap on international arrivals has also been halved until at least mid-February.
Meanwhile, quarantine workers will get daily saliva tests, as well as a weekly swab.
“This is an additional precautionary measure,” Mr McGowan said.
The case of the hotel quarantine cleaner in Brisbane is extremely concerning.
Following contact with his Queensland counterpart, our CHO provided new, updated health advice this morning.
As a result, WA will re-implement hard border restrictions with QLD at midnight tonight. pic.twitter.com/msR4h6JBvq
Mr McGowan said he supported his Queensland counterpart’s decision for a lockdown.
“It’s the right move, it’s the smart pre-emptive move that is necessary in the world in which we live,” he said.
“Tonight when they go into lockdown, they are not just doing it for Queensland, they are doing it for the whole country.”
It comes after genomic testing revealed on Thursday that an 86-year-old woman who travelled to Perth from Britain also has the UK strain of the virus. She remains in a stable condition at Royal Perth Hospital.
A nurse, paramedic and airport worker, who all breached personal protective equipment protocols when they had contact with the woman, remain in quarantine.
The paramedic and airport worker have both returned negative test results so far, and the Premier said on Friday that he expected the nurse would be the same.
Mr McGowan said he had been assured by health authorities that there was no threat to the wider community.
WA recorded no new cases of coronavirus overnight.
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