Western Australian health authorities have come under fire, amid claims they waited almost 12 hours before informing the federal government and other states of its first locally-acquired coronavirus case in almost 10 months.
A Perth quarantine hotel security guard contracted the highly-contagious UK strain of the virus, which sparked a five-day lockdown of the city and the state’s Peel and south-west regions until at least Friday.
There are fears pandemic protocols may have breached amid reports the security guard visited around a dozen venues across Perth for up to five days while infectious.
Questions have also been raised as to why daily testing of quarantine hotel workers was only implemented in WA last Friday, despite a National Cabinet decision to roll out initiative three weeks earlier on January 8.
Health officials told an Australian Health Protection Principal Committee meeting Sunday morning that WA had again recorded zero community infections, despite confirmation of the positive test result hours earlier at midnight.
More than two million Western Australians are in day two of a five day lockdown after the state recorded its first locally-acquired case in almost 10 months. Pictured is Perth resident being tested on Monday
The news prompted an unaware federal Acting Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd to publicly declare Australia had gone two weeks without recording a locally-acquired case.
Professor Kidd was finally told the bad news about the new case three hours later at 2.30pm AEDT (11.30am Perth time), The Australian reported.
Sources told the publication health authorities also failed to inform the National Incident Room, despite expectations to update federal authorities by midday each day.
WA Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson said Sunday’s AHPPC meeting, held at 7.30am Perth time was ‘an extraordinary meeting to discuss reinstatement of the New Zealand bubble’.
He added more details about the new locally-acquired case were still being gathered at the time.
‘WA Health was still collecting contract tracing information on the case and the probable cause, including the possibility of a variant case,’ Dr Robertson told The Australian.
‘Further detailed information was required to allow jurisdictions to make appropriate decisions, which was not available at 7.30am when when the AHPPC meeting was held.’
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Western Australian Health for further comment.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison declined to comment, claiming it was a matter for the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.
‘Oh look I’ll allow those matters to be dealt with at the AHPPC and through the normal processes,’ he told Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday, ahead of the first sitting day of federal parliament for 2021.
There are reports Western Australian health authorities waited almost 12 hours before informing the federal government and other states of new locally-acquired coronavirus case. Pictured are Perth residents who queued in sweltering heat to be tested on Monday
The infected hotel security guard worked two 12-hour shifts at the Sheraton Four Points hotel on both January 26 and 27 while there were four cases at the hotel, including two with the highly-infectious UK variant and one confirmed to have the South African strain.
It remains unclear how the guard, aged in his 20s, contracted the virus, having assured police he did not enter any rooms and is said to be fully cooperating with investigators.
Authorities have identified 66 close contacts of the man dubbed ‘case 903’. They have been ordered to self-isolate.
Eleven ‘high-risk’ contacts, including his three housemates, are in hotel quarantine.
The new locally-acquired case worked as a security guard at the Sheraton Four Points hotel
It comes as an insider blasted WA’s hotel quarantine system and accused security companies of hiring and exploiting foreign students.
The source claimed guards were paid minimum wage in cash and off the books so they could work double the 20 hours allowed under their visa arrangements.
It was also alleged that hotel security guards were sharing IDs so they could get away with working a second job such as driving for Uber.
The insider told The West the security services in the state were run by a ‘bunch of cowboys’.
Western Australians face an anxious wait this week with tests results over the coming days are set to reveal whether the state has dodged a bullet with the new COVID-19 outbreak.
Western Australia recorded no new cases from 3100 tests conducted on Sunday.
The latest lockdown in Perth has sparked a new wave of panic buying. Pictures are queues of supermarket shoppers in Maylands on Monday morning
The new case of the infected security guard ended Western Australia’s 10-month streak of zero community transmissions.
Hundreds of Western Australians queued for hours in scorching heatwave conditions to be tested on Monday.
The lockdown enforced on Perth, Peel and South West regions affects 80 per cent of the state’s population
The lockdown sparked a wave of panic buying across packed supermarkets and prompted South Australia to close its borders to WA without warning, along with Victoria, Queensland, Northern Territory, and later the ACT.
Health authorities have listed 15 venues, on top of Sheraton Four Points hotel, as potential exposure sites after they were visited by the security guard. Pictured: Map shows venues the positive Covid case visited
The state’s Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said the coming days would be ‘quite critical’ as 60 close contacts of the security guard have been identified.
‘We call him case 903. This is a person who… we suspect has got the UK variant strain but that will be confirmed in the next 36 hours,’ Mr Dawson told 6PR Radio on Monday.
‘If he has that more transmissible (strain) then that’s what’s causing us the concern.
Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan announced another review of the state’s quarantine arrangements, along with a police investigation.
‘WA police will allocate strong resources into this investigation,’ he told reporters on Monday.
‘They have the forensic expertise to do the work that is required. This will run in parallel with the review led by the former chief health officer … We will leave no stone unturned to ensure we find out exactly what happened to prevent it from happening again.’
This post was first published on DailyMail.