WA eyes mandatory hotel quarantine testing

Michael Ramsey
·3-min read

Western Australia will enforce mandatory testing for some hotel quarantine workers within days in another effort to head off an Adelaide-style COVID-19 outbreak.

But the government has no plans to stop security guards from taking up other jobs despite the risk they could spread the virus.

A cleaner at a medi-hotel has been revealed as the source of a cluster of at least 23 cases that has forced South Australia into a six-day hard lockdown.

She's thought to have picked up the virus from a surface and then infected members of her family.

A security guard at the same hotel has prompted further concern after it was revealed he also worked at a pizza bar, potentially infecting other staff and customers.

Victoria has flagged that its revamped hotel quarantine program will require all workers to either work for the government or be exclusively contracted to facilities.

WA Premier Mark McGowan says his state won't be following suit.

"Telling people they can't have a second job is very difficult," he told reporters on Thursday.

"That's not something we're considering at this point in time."

Hotel quarantine failings were the key factor behind Victoria's second wave, which resulted in more than 18,000 infections and hundreds of deaths.

WA's hotel staff can currently volunteer to get tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis, but the government is finalising legal directions to make such tests compulsory.

Those who decline risk losing their jobs.

"We'll have those arrangements in place very, very shortly," Health Minister Roger Cook said.

"Obviously you'd expect security guards to be part of that cohort, maybe some cleaners but not, for instance, people who are working in the kitchens or other elements of the hotel quarantining arrangements."

WA on Monday closed its border to SA, denying entry to anyone from that state who does not meet limited exemption criteria.

The response came just days after WA finally removed its hard borders, bringing to an end seven months of isolation.

Mr Cook said more than 600 people from SA had made their way across the border over the past week and none had tested positive.

Adelaide's six-day lockdown, closing schools, universities, pubs, cafes, retail stores and takeaway food outlets and even banning outdoor exercise, is the harshest the nation has seen.

Mr Cook said WA wouldn't necessarily follow suit if the virus found its way back into the state.

"You'll recall in South Australia, the outbreak involved members of a large family, all of which attended big cultural festivals," he said.

"That presents a particular danger so their response, having a very wide capture of casual and other contacts, is appropriate and we think that their response is proportionate.

"It really depends on the nature of the outbreak and the sort of communities that are associated with it."

WA recorded no new cases on Thursday. The state has 18 active cases, all returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine.