- More than 2 million people in Perth and a neighboring region will have to stay home except for essential work, medical care, provisions or exercise.
UPDATED ON APR 24, 2021 03:16 PM IST
Australia’s fourth-biggest city entered a three-day lockdown on Saturday to prevent the spread of Covid-19 after a returned overseas traveler who’d completed hotel quarantine tested positive for the virus.
More than 2 million people in Perth and a neighboring region will have to stay home except for essential work, medical care, provisions or exercise. Authorities are racing to contact and test people who may have been exposed to the man, who was released from 14 days of quarantine on April 17, flew to Melbourne four days later and tested positive on Friday.
“It is critically important to give our contact tracers and health teams the time they need to ensure community spread is limited,” Western Australia state Premier Mark McGowan said.
New Zealand, which has a quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia, has halted flights from the state.
The man was infected after the virus spread from an adjacent room, potentially through the ventilation system –heightening concerns about the suitability of some hotels to isolate returned travelers.
While Australia has come close to eliminating local transmission of the virus by closing its international border to non-residents, occasional cases leak into the community from quarantine hotels via infected security guards or cleaners, or travelers who have caught Covid-19 during mandatory isolation. As virus cases surge in countries such as India, there are fears Australia’s quarantine system will buckle with more returning travelers testing positive.
McGowan has asked the federal government to halve the number of overseas travelers arriving in Western Australia each month to ease the pressure.
The Northern Territory government said Saturday that eight people who are in isolation after arriving on flights from Chennai and New Delhi had tested positive for the virus.
The main Labor opposition is demanding Prime Minister Scott Morrison speeds up the sluggish vaccine rollout to mitigate such risks.