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Quarantine debate continues as WA ends lockdown


State and federal tensions over hotel quarantine remain unresolved as West Australians this morning emerge from a snap coronavirus lockdown.

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Perth and the Peel region completed the three-day lockdown overnight after a second straight day of no new community cases.

Interim restrictions remain in place until 12.01am on Saturday, including the mandatory wearing of face masks and limits on gatherings.

Two locally acquired infections were found from more than 29,000 tests after the virus leaked out of the Mercure quarantine hotel.

WA’s health department was aware of ventilation issues at the Mercure but had believed the risk could be mitigated.

The outbreak has renewed hotel quarantine concerns and prompted calls for the federal government to invest in purpose-built facilities.

WA Premier Mark McGowan has urged the Commonwealth to open air bases and Christmas Island to accommodate returned travellers.

He accused the federal government of wanting the states to “do all the work” in managing returned travellers.

“If they are not prepared to do it, we will just have to drop the number of returning people into Australia,” he said.

“And that will be sad for many families but we can’t go through these sorts of events.”

The premier apologised for the lockdown but said he would not hesitate to implement such a response again.

WA’s cap on international arrivals will be halved to 512 a week for the next month and McGowan has not ruled out extending the reduction.

Federal leaders insist facilities such as air bases are not suitable for quarantine.

The prime minister’s office released figures showing 140,355 people had entered hotel quarantine in the past six months.

Thirteen breakouts were recorded across the nation, fewer than 0.01 per cent of quarantine travellers.

The guest at the Mercure whose infection led to the outbreak had secured an exemption to travel to India last December to attend his own wedding.

He and his bride tested positive in hotel quarantine upon returning to Australia earlier this month.

Genomic testing has confirmed the virus spread from the couple to several other guests in nearby rooms, including a Melbourne man who did not test positive until after he had completed quarantine and spent five days in the community.

He went on to infect two other people in the community.

Authorities have identified 354 close contacts of confirmed cases and 222 have so far returned negative test results.

-with AAP

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