West Australian authorities have retrospectively ordered more people to stay at home during the COVID-19 lockdown amid confusion over the rules.
Two locally-acquired cases have so far been linked to the Perth Mercure Hotel outbreak which has plunged Perth and Peel into a three-day lockdown.
Premier Mark McGowan on Friday indicated there was nothing to stop Perth residents holidaying in the state’s southwest over the long weekend provided they arrived before the lockdown came into effect at midnight and wore masks.
The following day, Health Minister Roger Cook said the thousands of people who had ventured south were subject to the lockdown rules and should “only be in public for essential purposes”.
WA police chief and state emergency co-ordinator Chris Dawson on Saturday night signed new directions ordering anyone who had left the combined Perth and Peel regions between April 17 and April 24 to stay at home except for designated reasons.
Opposition Leader Mia Davies said the government’s bungled communication had added to people’s worries.
“They delayed the lockdown until midnight last night which caused a mass exodus of people from the Perth and Peel into regional WA,” she said on Saturday.
“Today they have realised this was a mistake and the minister for health has tried to rewrite the rules on the fly.”
The lockdown did not come into effect until midnight because police needed time to set up vehicle checkpoints.
A second locally-acquired case linked to the Mercure outbreak was announced on Saturday – a man in his 40s who dined at the same restaurant as two confirmed cases.
They were a 54-year-old Victorian man who appears to have contracted the virus from a fellow returned traveller while in hotel quarantine at the Mercure and his female friend from Kardinya whom he was visiting.
The Kitchen Inn, in Kardinya, and five other eateries in East Victoria Park, Morley and Northbridge are deemed high-risk sites and anyone who dined there during exposure times must quarantine for two weeks.
Another 20 exposure sites are not considered as risky but those who attended them must self-isolate until they receive a negative test result.
On Sunday afternoon authorities revised listed exposure times for several locations, including in Crawley and Landsdale.
The Victorian man’s infection was not identified until a week after he left hotel quarantine and travelled to Melbourne on April 21.
Genomic testing has confirmed the virus initially spread in the Mercure from a couple who had returned from India to a pregnant mother and her four-year-old daughter across the corridor and remain in quarantine.
The Victorian man had been staying in a room adjacent to the couple from India.
Documents released by the government this week identified the Mercure as one of three hotels considered “high risk” for ventilation issues.
WA’s chief health officer received the report on April 8 and wrote to the premier last Friday advising the Mercure should stop being used.
The Mercure will soon no longer accommodate returned travellers and the government will review the continued use of the other high-risk hotels.
Mr McGowan said he hoped the lockdown would end as planned at midnight on Monday.
He criticised the Commonwealth for not providing better quarantine facilities, saying CBD hotels were not suitable.
But the federal government said alternative defence or immigration detention facilities were not as safe and did not have suitable hospital access.
Australian Associated Press