West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has demanded the federal government use its own facilities for Covid-19 quarantine as Perth enters the last day of its three-day snap lockdown.
The lockdown of the Perth and the Peel region followed an outbreak in the city’s hotel quarantine system, sparked by a person who went to India for a wedding then passed it on to a Victorian man while they were quarantining at the Mercure Hotel in the Perth CBD.
The Victorian man then went on to spend five days out in the Perth community, during which time he infected a friend with whom he went to a restaurant, where another man contracted the virus.
McGowan argues the federal government has abrogated its responsibility to take care of quarantine, leaving the states to bear the burden and the cost. He said he was at the “end of his tether” at the lack of federal government help, reiterating his previously expressed view there were various Commonwealth facilities that would be more suitable.
McGowan was scathing of the person who travelled from Perth to India on December 12 and returned to Australia on April 10 — four months later — with his new bride.
“If you want to go overseas, it should be for only the most extraordinary of reasons at this point in time,” McGowan said. “Not to go overseas for a wedding. Even to go overseas for a funeral. We have to be a lot tougher in relation to letting people out of Australia at this point in time.”
The federal government dismissed McGowan’s request to use its own quarantine facilities but has agreed to halve the number of Australians returning to Perth, reducing the intake to just over 500 per week from Thursday.
In a statement on Sunday, a spokesman said federal government facilities such as the Christmas Island detention centre and defence bases were unsuitable for quarantine.
“Defence bases are operational facilities and the risk to critical defence personnel is not acceptable,” he said. “Defence bases also generally feature austere accommodation facilities with shared dorms and bathrooms making them unsuitable for quarantine purposes. In many cases, these facilities are not close to health and intensive care services.”
Defence Minister Peter Dutton later echoed those comments in an ABC interview, saying “there are eight or nine hotels that are working perfectly fine in WA at the moment”.
The Mercure Hotel will no longer be used as a quarantine facility for returned travellers because of its poor ventilation but will instead accommodate low-risk seasonal workers from Tonga and Vanuatu.
The cluster is the state’s first case of community transmission in more than a year, not including a hotel quarantine security guard who contracted the virus in January, prompting a five-day lockdown.
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