Victoria shuts border to Perth, hundreds in isolation
Victoria has slammed its border shut to Perth residents after a passenger infected with coronavirus landed at Melbourne Airport.
The man caught the virus at a quarantine hotel in Perth after being in China and then flew to Melbourne without knowing he was a carrier.
On Saturday, Victoria’s Health Department announced there was one interstate case and one case of an overseas returned traveller in its daily tally.
It brought the total number of active cases to 23.
On Friday night Perth was placed into a three-day lockdown after it was revealed the man who later flew to Melbourne had moved around the city for four days.
The Victorian government responded by declaring Perth and the nearby Peel area as red zones, and contact tracers scrambled to track and test all 257 passengers on the man’s flight.
The AFL has been thrown into chaos by the lockdown.
North Melbourne players could be stranded in Perth after tonight’s game against Fremantle behind closed doors in Perth.
The Roos’ next match was scheduled to be played in Tasmania, but that state has also slammed the door shut on Perth arrivals.
The club on Friday night said it would apply for an exemption — as other clubs had during previous lockdowns.
The Roos believe their stay in a “hotel bubble” would give them grounds to not have to quarantine on their return to Melbourne.
“We think we will be able to fly out on Sunday morning as had been planned,” North Melbourne chief executive Ben Amarfio told the Herald Sun.
“The view of the WA police is they got it early and hence it’s only a three-day lockdown, so the game will go ahead without a crowd.
“They (players) have gone from a plane to the hotel to the stadium and then back to the hotel and to a plane. So they are considered ‘clean’, and they will also be tested when we get back to Melbourne.”
The West Coast Eagles have not escaped the drama and their squad is awaiting the results of COVID tests before Saturday’s match in Geelong.
However, the club is optimistic it can fly back to Perth on a chartered flight on Saturday night.
“Players and staff, everyone is getting tested,” Eagles chief executive Trevor Nisbett said.
“Then we will get tested when we get back to Perth and we will start to prepare for the following week.”
“We have basically been in lockdown since we have been here. We have been at the hotel. Then we have been to a closed training session, straight back to the hotel.”
Eagles supporters who have travelled to Geelong for Saturday’s clash will be barred by Victorian health officials.
Passengers who arrived at Melbourne Airport from Perth on Friday night told the Saturday Herald Sun health officials greeted them and checked to ensure they had a permit to enter Victoria.
There was no health screening or COVID-19 testing conducted and passengers made their way to the bag carousel.
The man who arrived is Victoria’s first community case of COVID-19 in eight weeks.
All 257 passengers aboard the April 21 flight QF778 have been ordered to get tested and to isolate for 14 days.
Anyone who was at Melbourne Airport Terminal One between 6.30pm and 7.30pm on April 21 has also been ordered to isolate, get tested and stay isolated until they return a negative result.
The returned traveller, in his 50s, flew to Melbourne after returning from Shanghai and completing two weeks of hotel quarantine in Perth. Western Australian authorities alerted the man that he had been identified as a close contact upon touching down at Melbourne Airport.
The father of two was understood to have worn a mask while at Melbourne Airport and was picked up by his spouse and immediately taken to his eastern suburbs home.
It is understood he went directly from the airport to his home, and didn’t leave except to undergo a COVID-19 test because he felt unwell.
He recorded a positive test at 2am on Friday after he had already been transferred to the Holiday Inn Flinders health hotel at his own request. It was not known whether any of his family members had been out in the community.
But his spouse, two children and a friend of one child have all been identified as close contacts.
They were instructed to immediately get tested and to quarantine for a full 14 days.
The results of their tests were not yet known.
WA premier Mark McGowan put Perth into lockdown in response to the outbreak.
It means more than 40 Anzac Day services are cancelled across the city and Saturday night’s AFL match between Fremantle and North Melbourne is to be played in an empty stadium.
Mr McGowan said the Melbourne traveller had completed his quarantine in a room “adjacent” to a confirmed positive case on the sixth floor of the Mercure Hotel in Perth.
He was located in the room alongside an infectious family from the UK, and opposite an infectious couple from India.
The man returned a negative result on day 12 of his hotel quarantine and was released on April 17.
He spent four days in Perth before leaving to Melbourne on April 21.
INDIAN TRAVELLER BAN COULD BE ON CARDS
The state government hasn’t ruled out banning Indian travellers from entering Victoria, as the Indian subcontinent faces a drastic coronavirus emergency.
Mr Foley said the Victorian government supported the national cabinet decision to cut the number of flights from India, but said the state may look to take a tougher stance in future.
“It is perfectly available to Australia to look at what other mitigation measures we can take to manage that,” he said on Friday.
It comes as India reported a global record of 314,000 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours, which is the world’s biggest single-day rise since the pandemic began.
Mr Foley said Victoria, along with a number of other jurisdictions, had raised concerns around the high level of infections in hotel quarantine.
He said people from the Indian subcontinent, including Bangladesh and Pakistan, were “disproportionately overrepresented” in Victoria’s quarantine program.
“The purpose of quarantining is to establish if people have what it is you’re looking for. What we are now seeing is increasing levels of people, originating from the (Indian) subcontinent, as the virus spreads at record levels in India,” Mr Foley said.
Mr Foley said the matter was a “necessary public health conversation”, and added that the Victorian government would continue to monitor the quarantine program closely.
“We’ve seen other jurisdictions, (including the UK and New Zealand), put a pause on any arrivals from the Indian subcontinent, as they reach record levels of pandemic spread … Victoria shared those concerns at national cabinet (and) we still have those concerns,” he said.
“Just like the Prime Minister has not ruled out taking further measures, we strongly support that.”