The lockdown of the Perth and Peel region will end at midnight tonight after Western Australia recorded no new community spread of coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.
But Premier Mark McGowan said while people were free to leave their homes and return to work and schools would be open as usual, some interim restrictions would remain for the next four days, including the mandatory wearing of face masks in public.
Masks will not be mandatory for primary school students, but secondary school students will need to wear them.
Staff at primary and secondary schools will need to wear masks.
Masks will remain compulsory until at least 12.01am on Saturday, when the interim restrictions are reviewed.
Indoor fitness venues, nightclubs and the casino must stay closed, but all other venues including restaurants, pubs and cafes can reopen.
But the four-square-metre capacity rule will apply, with a limit of 20 patrons not including staff.
Private indoor and outdoor gatherings are also limited to crowds of 20, while people are free to travel beyond the Perth and Peel area.
Lockdown has ‘done the job’: Premier
Mr McGowan said the absence of any new cases was a “fantastic result” in the wake of the snap lockdown announced on Friday.
“The short three-day lockdown has done the job it was designed to do. It was the circuit-breaker we needed to limit community spread,” he said.
“Western Australians have done their bit to keep our community safe.”
Two people had been confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 via community transmission after the infection of a Victorian man while he was in Perth hotel quarantine.
The outbreak from the Mercure Hotel was today confirmed to have originated from a man who was in quarantine after travelling to India to get married.
More than 13,000 coronavirus tests were conducted in WA yesterday, bringing the total tests conducted to 29,963 since Friday.
The Premier said following emergency meetings this morning with the state’s Chief Health Officer and Police Commissioner, a step-down approach would be put in place for easing restrictions
“We need to be cautious as we come out of lockdown as the virus could still be out there,” he said.
Other interim restrictions in place
Under the interim rules, masks are mandatory both indoors and outdoors, but in addition to primary school children, they will not be required for anybody vigorously exercising or for those who are exempt.
Visits to hospitals, aged care and disability care facilities are restricted to compassionate grounds only, while community sport can proceed, but without spectators and with capacity limits for indoor venues.
Universities will be open for online learning only.
While all public venues including hospitality and entertainment spots can open other than the casino, nightclubs and indoor fitness venues, Mr McGowan acknowledged they would still be impacted by the four-square-metre capacity rule and limit on patrons.
“I know this makes it tough for many businesses,” he said.
“But it’s important we are cautious and ease off restrictions in line with health advice.”
The Premier said he understood there would be confusion about the interim restrictions.
“Coming out of lockdown is no easy task, it’s about balancing things out and coming to a point that’s in the best interests of all the community,” he said.
“This lockdown has been disruptive. I’m very sorry that it had to happen.”
Many businesses will stay shut, says AHA
Australian Hotels Association of WA chief executive Bradley Woods said continued COVID restrictions means many businesses would not open.
For the next four days, the hospitality industry must comply with a four square metre rule and a 20 patron limit for every closed off area, for seated service only.
Mr Woods said while the health advice must be followed, it would mean tens of thousands of people would be out of work this week.
“With the extreme limitations on capacity and service within those venues, we suspect that many hospitality venues simply won’t open because the conditions are so onerous,” he said.
“Clearly the hospitality industry is bearing the major brunt of the lockdowns and the shutdowns, as is the entertainment sector and it’s only fair that the state government looks at reasonable compensation measures for the businesses and the staff working within them.”
Mr Woods said the sector had just missed out on one of its biggest weekends of the year before winter hits.
“We estimate across the board around up to a hundred million would’ve been lost as a result of these closures,” he said.
“And over the forthcoming week, you can pretty much well double that through to Saturday morning.”
The hospitality industry is hoping it will be able to go back to 75 per cent or even 100 per cent capacity after the restriction period ends.
Elective surgery restricted
Health Minister Roger Cook said there would be a focus on category one and urgent category two elective surgery over the next four days.
All other elective surgery would be rescheduled, along with any non-urgent outpatient and community health visits that could not be completed via telehealth.
“We understand the disruption this causes for everyone, but we hope it’s only a temporary measure and we seek your understanding and patience,” Mr Cook said.
The minister also said the recent lockdown reiterated the importance of using the SafeWA app.
“The threat of COVID-19 is not going away. There is no room for complacency,” he said.
Premier threatens to cut overseas intake
As the row over hotel quarantine continued, Mr McGowan said if the federal government did not help WA with quarantining overseas arrivals, the number of people the state accepted would need to be dropped.
WA’s international arrivals are set to be capped to 512 per week from this Thursday until May 30, but the Premier said he would be reluctant to return to the full 1,025 per week cap.
“The Commonwealth has facilities that were built for these sorts of reasons,” he said.
“I know the Commonwealth doesn’t want to do it … but if they’re not prepared to do it, we’ll just have to drop the number of people returning to Australia.”
He said they also needed to crack down on people leaving and then returning to Australia.
“We need to make sure Australians, or people living in Australia, can only go overseas for the most extreme and extraordinary of reasons,” he said.
“We can’t have people leaving this country for whatever purpose and then coming back COVID positive.
“We’re in a pandemic – millions of people are dying. If you can’t go to a funeral, or you can’t go to a wedding, or you can’t go and run in an athletics meet, so be it.”
Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson said hotels were an “ongoing issue” when it came to high-risk cases.
“Public hotels are not designed for quarantine,” he said.
“We’ve had to put in measures to work with hotels that are not fit for purpose.”
Doctors call for quarantine camp
The Australian Medical Association’s WA President Andrew Miller said the organisation and doctors welcomed the easing of restrictions, but urged people to stay vigilant and get tested if they felt unwell.
“Now we enter a really important phase where we have more freedoms, but potentially positive people in the community,” he said.
“We do need to take this really seriously, and we do need to remember there are countries descending into chaos.”
Dr Miller said he was unhappy to see elective surgery cancellations, but that the number one priority at the moment was fixing quarantine arrangements.
He suggested a “mining-style” camp would work better for isolating returned overseas travellers.
“We know they can be manufactured and stood up very quickly,” he said.
“I’m not at all happy that this happened. It’s predictable, it was predicted, and it was entirely preventable,” he said.
“I don’t care whether [the Premier] wants to blame the feds or they want to blame him, they’re all on the National Cabinet.”
Locals split over hotel quarantine
There were mixed feelings about the hotel quarantine system among people enjoying their permitted exercise at Perth’s Cottesloe Beach this morning.
Kerry Satchwell said the state government should have learned a lesson from the last case of transmission in WA’s hotel quarantine system in January.
“First time something happens, it’s a mistake, and the second time you can’t really say it’s a mistake. You should have learned from the mistake,” she said.
“I understand we want to keep people safe, but people are disadvantaged and suffering for something that was probably quite preventable.”
It was a view shared by fellow beach-goer Geneveive Miller.
“It being able to go through the vents is a bit of a safety concern for all the other hotels that we have lots of people quarantining in,” she said.
But Vik Bang, who was also out exercising on the beachfront, said the state government was doing the best it could.
“I believe this is something everyone has to learn from as it goes … and get better at it,” he said.
“I think [with] the hotel quarantine, what the government is doing is pretty good so far.”