Western Australia has posted a fourth consecutive day of no new community COVID-19 cases, meaning the lockdown will likely end on Friday.
Premier Mark McGowan made the announcement a short time ago.
Testing numbers have remained high – with 7,767 tests conducted yesterday. More than 30,000 tests were conducted during the first three days of WA’s five-day lockdown.
The surge in testing, prompted by a hotel security guard who unwittingly roamed the streets of Perth while infectious, paves the way for metropolitan Perth, the Peel region and South West to emerge from lockdown at 6pm on Friday.
Authorities are continuing to investigate how the guard at the Sheraton Four Points contracted the highly contagious UK strain of the virus from an infected guest.
Anyone working in a “high-risk situation” in quarantine hotels is now required to wear a face mask at all times.
Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller is astonished such a policy was not already in place.
He says WA’s health department must heed calls for improved hotel ventilation and for workers to be provided with airborne-level protective equipment such as N95 respirators.
“There does need to be change, and we have been saying for months that this is a real problem,” Dr Miller said.
“If they don’t start listening to us, they’re going to have to change some people, absolutely.”
Health Minister Roger Cook said the guard had been stationed on a chair near a stairwell about three metres from the room of the guest, who had been “quite unwell” and remained in quarantine for three weeks.
The guest received seven visits on January 24 from guards and other staff wearing protective equipment, who dropped off food, medication and flowers.
But contrary to previous government advice, none of the visits were from the guard who tested positive, a university student in his 20s dubbed “case 903”.
Authorities are now examining whether the sick guest somehow transmitted the virus without face-to-face contact, either by airborne transmission or surface contamination.
“It’s a working hypothesis. We haven’t really nailed it yet,” WA Health infectious disease expert Paul Armstrong said.
Dr Miller said authorities should have mitigated for potential airborne spread.
He also blasted Dr Armstrong for suggesting guards might be reluctant to wear “uncomfortable” masks for long periods.
“We’ve told the community they need to wear masks. That is a valid public health direction,” Dr Miller said.