From tonight, Perth and the Peel region will enter into a three-day lockdown, with West Australian Premier Mark McGowan saying his state is undergoing “an emerging and serious issue”.
The news comes five days after the transtasman bubble began, allowing quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia. It’s not yet clear how many New Zealand travellers will be affected by the lockdown.
From midnight tonight until midnight on Monday, April 26, residents must stay in Perth and Peel and will not be able to leave unless they have an exemption.
“There will be four reasons to leave your house,” McGowan said. “These are: work, because they can’t work from home or remotely; shopping for essentials like groceries, medicine and necessary supplies; medical or healthcare needs, including compassionate requirements and looking after the vulnerable; and exercise with a maximum of four people, limited to one hour per day.”
The snap lockdown follows an outbreak in Perth’s hotel quarantine system, with a Victorian man testing positive in Melbourne today after completing 14 days of quarantine at a WA hotel.
That case ended Victoria’s 56 day-run without a locally acquired infection.
A pregnant woman and her four-year-old daughter have also tested positive after their stay in WA, having contracted the virus from an infected couple who had returned from India and were staying in a room opposite them.
Perth-Auckland flight due tomorrow
Air New Zealand couldn’t be contacted this evening, but according to Perth Airport’s website, an Air New Zealand flight from Perth to Auckland is due to leave at 7.45pm local time (11.45pm NZT).
NZ176 is due to land in Auckland at 5.50am NZT tomorrow, according to Auckland Airport.
The flight is the return journey of NZ175, which arrived in Perth from Auckland today at 1.40pm today local time (5.40pm NZT).
The next flight from Auckland to Perth is NZ175 at 10am on Sunday.
At 7.20pm, Air NZ still had flights for sale between Perth and Auckland in both directions. It is, however, unclear if the flights will still take place.
As of yesterday, approximately 14,500 travellers have arrived from Australia since the bubble began, the Government said in its Covid-19 update today.
The transtasman bubble is designed to allow Kiwis and Aussies to travel quarantine-free between the two countries.
But the exception to that could be if an outbreak occurs in Australia while you are visiting. You may then have to enter a managed isolation facility on your return to New Zealand.
The Government has set up a green, orange and red traffic light system to deal with Covid-19 outbreaks in Australia.
You should be able to continue travelling quarantine-free if a Covid case occurs where authorities think there is a low risk of further transmission, such as if it is a border worker who tests positive.
But if there is a Covid case from an unknown source and that Australian state goes into a short lockdown, flights to New Zealand could be paused for up to 72 hours.
Multiple cases from an unknown source could lead to flights to New Zealand being suspended for a longer period.
If you are stranded by the suspension of flights, you will be on your own, with the Government not planning to provide any accommodation.
That means you should plan to have extra money and emergency contingency options in place.
You should also be prepared in case you need to stay in a managed isolation facility if you are returning from an Australian state that has been in lockdown.
'Our hotels were not built for this purpose'
Premier McGowan said at today’s announcement that Australia’s hotels were not built for the purpose of holding returned travellers who could potentially be infected with Covid-19.
“Our hotels were not built for this purpose but that is the only solution we have at this point in time if we’re going to have returning Australians,” he said.
“We all know Australians want to come home … If Western Australia is going to participate in this, the risk is out there.”
For the time being, he’s requested from Prime Minister Scott Morrison that the number of Australians returning to WA is halved “so that we can reduce the risk to our state through our hotel system in light of what has occurred”.
Despite the raft of changes WA has made to its hotel quarantine system, Covid-19 is “insidious”, McGowan said.
Surge in infected returnees
In the past 24 hours, multiple Australian states and territories have seen a dramatic rise in Covid-19 infections in those returning from overseas.
New South Wales and the Northern Territory saw the most significant rise in hotel quarantine cases, recording 18 and 13 infections overnight.
South Australia recorded nine new cases in hotel quarantine.
As a whole, there were 46 Covid-19 cases from overseas travellers recorded across the country today.
NT Health authorities have confirmed all its new cases were discovered in travellers returning from India, prompting further concerns about how the country’s growing outbreak could impact Australia.
It comes after Morrison announced international arrivals from India would be reduced by a third as the country deals with an escalating Covid-19 outbreak.
Anyone travelling to Australia from India will also have to take a Covid-19 test before boarding.
The virus situation in India has been likened to a “tsunami”, with the country recording 312,731 new infections in just 24 hours on Thursday.
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