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The West Australian Premier says Perth’s Mercure Hotel will not take any new returned overseas travellers after the virus was transmitted between people in quarantine who were staying in separate rooms.

Key points:

  • Two hotel guests caught COVID-19 from a couple who returned from India
  • Other guests and staff have tested negative but will be retested
  • The Premier wants National Cabinet to consider banning Indian travel

Genome sequencing data has revealed a mother and her four-year-old child, who were returned travellers from the UK, caught the virus at the hotel from an infected couple who had returned from India and were staying in a room opposite them.

Mr McGowan said both rooms had HEPA filter air purifiers fitted in them.

He said 18 people who were on the same floor as the infected couple had since been released from quarantine.

Two of the guests, who were in adjacent rooms to the infected couple, have been asked to self-quarantine for another two weeks and get retested. 

The other 16 guests were asked to get retested and self-isolate until they return a negative result.

Four of them had already received negative test results. 

A further 13 security guards, 31 hotel staff, one doctor and two CCTV installers, who visited the hotel floor since April 10, will also be retested and have been asked to isolate until they get a negative result.

Hotel system ‘imperfect’: Premier

An independent review of WA’s hotel quarantine system following a January incident of a security guard contracting the virus, which sparked a five-day lockdown, made 16 recommendations — all of which were supported by the state government.

The recommendations included improving hotel ventilation, establishing better systems for sharing data and improving risk management.

Two people were infected at the Mercure Hotel after the virus jumped from one room to another.(ABC News: Steve Johns)

Mr McGowan said the recommendations were being “implemented progressively”.

“Health authorities are doing their best to implement his recommendations and to do it safely,” he said.

He said the hotel quarantine system was “imperfect”.

“All health authorities and governments are still learning about everything this once-in-a-hundred-year pandemic throws up,” Mr McGowan said.

“What has been tried and tested is our border controls.

“As such, I am going to raise with National Cabinet my concerns about the volume of returning Australians that have the virus and the pressure that is placing on us and our hotel quarantine system.”

India travel ban proposed

Mr McGowan said people who had been in COVID-ravaged India posed a particularly high risk.

“We are very concerned about India and that is why we have suggested a suspension, a reduction in the number of people returning from India should be considered, and I will be raising that with National Cabinet today,” he said.

“Anecdotally, we have some evidence that people are leaving Australia and going to India and then returning COVID-positive.

“This is under the control of the Commonwealth. These are matters we are going to raise today.”

While the Mercure would no longer accept returned overseas travellers, Mr McGowan said it would be used as a dedicated quarantine hotel for low-risk seasonal workers from countries including Tonga and Vanuatu.

A flight of seasonal workers is expected to arrive in late May.

“As returned travellers continue to arrive, they will fill the other quarantine hotels in our city,” Mr McGowan said.

“I want to assure people that seasonal workers from Tonga or Vanuatu come from very low-risk areas.

“This hotel will still remain under WA Health’s management.”

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