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Aussie authorities trace Perth coronavirus infections to hotel security officer


Health authorities in Western Australia have traced the recent spate of infections there to a hotel security officer. They believe that the security officer was probably infectious for five days before finally testing positive for the Wuhan coronavirus. The officer, who is in his 20s, had visited 15 locations across Perth – sending contact tracers into a frenzy to look for his potential contacts. The incident involving the security guard became the first case of community transmission in 10 months.

In response, the government of Western Australia ordered a five-day lockdown for the city of Perth and the Peel and South West regions. Furthermore, health authorities have identified 60 of the guard’s close contacts and informed them to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

The security officer worked at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel, which was used as a quarantine facility for Australians and permanent residents coming from other countries. Travelers isolated in the hotel tested positive for either the B117 coronavirus strain from the U.K. or the B1351 strain from South Africa. On Jan. 26 and Jan. 27, the guard worked two 12-hour shifts at the same floor where four active COVID-19 cases were checked in. Two of the cases had the U.K. strain while one case had the South African strain.

The security officer claimed he was wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) while working his shifts at the hotel. Aside from his duty as a guard, he also worked as a ride-share driver. But authorities said he had not worked as a driver since Jan. 22. Routine testing done on him Jan. 5, Jan. 17 and Jan. 23 all returned negative results, but he felt sick Jan. 28 and decided not to report to work on that day.

According to Western Australia Chief Health Andy Robertson, the security guard was most likely infectious from Jan. 26 onwards. He tested positive for COVID-19 on the evening of Jan. 30.

Security guard visited a number of places in Perth – leading to a regional lockdown

The security officer visited a number of locations around the region after falling ill. Among the 15 venues he visited included a fast-food restaurant, a supermarket, a drugstore, a halal grocery and a beauty salon. In addition, he also visited the Consulate General of India and the Perth Convention Center.

The locations visited by the security officer are spread across different suburbs. People who may have visited any of the locations and came into close proximity with the guard have been told to get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible. They were also told to isolate themselves until they receive a negative result.

Health authorities said the guard’s three housemates have tested negative for COVID-19 and have been quarantined in a hotel for 14 days. But they clarified that he did not enter a hotel room where an active case is staying. It is suspected that the guard contracted the B117 strain from the U.K.

Western Australia Police Commissioner Chris Dawson expressed concern over the guard contracting the more contagious Wuhan coronavirus strain. “We call him case 903. We suspect [he] has got the U.K. variant strain, but that will be confirmed in the next 36 hours. If he has that [B117 strain], then that’s what’s causing us the concern,” the police commissioner told 6PR Radio Feb. 1.

Because of the community transmission, Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan declared a state of emergency Jan. 31. He also ordered about 80 percent of the state’s population to stay home, with the lockdown order set to expire at 6 p.m. of Feb. 5. Pubs, playgrounds and gyms in Perth will be closed while restaurants will only be permitted for takeaway. (Related: Hard border restrictions imposed on Australian states following small coronavirus outbreak.)

Residents are only allowed to leave their homes for four main reasons. They can shop for essential goods such as groceries and medicine and seek medical treatment. They will be permitted to exercise, but only for an hour per day. Those who cannot work remotely are permitted to leave their homes to work onsite. Visits to nursing homes and hospitals are prohibited during the lockdown period.

A security guard also caused South Australia to declare a lockdown back in November 2020. The Wall Street Journal reported that a security guard who worked at an Adelaide hotel – who also had a second job at a pizza restaurant – contracted COVID-19. Initially, the guard claimed that he caught the disease after receiving a takeaway pizza from an infected restaurant worker. But a later investigation showed that he contracted the pathogen from a cleaner in the hotel he worked at. He exposed his colleagues at the pizza restaurant to the Wuhan coronavirus.

Because of the security guard’s perjury, South Australia mandated a statewide lockdown for six days. South Australia Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said: “Had this person been truthful to the contact tracing teams, we would not have gone into a six-day lockdown.”

Pandemic.news has more about coronavirus-related lockdowns in Australia and other places.

Sources include:

DailyMail.co.uk

WA.gov.au

WSJ.com

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