Coronavirus crisis: Restrictions set to lift as zero-case days continue for WA

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Peter LawThe West Australian
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VideoPremier Mark McGowan will reveal what COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted in WA

A relaxation of coronavirus restrictions for Perth and Peel is set to be announced on Thursday after another day of no community cases, but the Health Minister has flagged masks will “continue to play an important role in terms of keeping us safe”.

Roger Cook said the State Government was also waiting for more information about the situation in NSW after a second case of community transmission was detected in Sydney overnight. WA’s border remains open to quarantine-free travel from NSW.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced new restrictions for Greater Sydney on Thursday, including mandatory masks in indoor spaces, and used the opportunity to take a swipe at her counterparts Mark McGowan and Annastacia Palaszczuk.

“If this was WA or Queensland, they would have shut down the whole city. They would have said ‘stay at home’. They would have said don’t go about your business,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“We’re saying the opposite. We’re saying go about your normal business. Enjoy Mother’s Day. Enjoy what you do normally.”

Mr Cook said the Government would look to ease post-lockdown restrictions — which includes compulsory masks — “as much as possible” after COVID-19 escaped into the community from hotel quarantine twice in less than a fortnight.

He said Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson had provided updated advice that showed contact tracers now had a “very clear indication” of the close contacts of the community cases linked to the Mercure and Pan Pacific outbreaks.

“I think we all need to understand that COVID-19 is not going away and masks are going to continue to be able to play an important role in terms of keeping us safe,” Mr Cook said.

“Obviously, where we don't need to wear masks or where we can mitigate the risks around needing to use the mask they are welcome opportunities, but we just need to be aware that they will continue to play a role in terms of our overall response for COVID-19.”

At an emergency meeting this morning, WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson flagged Victoria had made it compulsory for its residents to always have a mask with them at all times when they leave home. Mr Cook said the Government would consider a similar move.

“There are clouds in the sky so perhaps take an umbrella. COVID is in the world, so perhaps carry a mask at all times,” he said.

“The WA community has been outstanding in terms of its response. It doesn't seem to have mattered how quickly we put things in place, the way the community embraced masks and made sure that they had them available made us all feel very proud.

“One of the reasons why you might want to have people carrying masks is if you're sure about the supply. That is, could people purchase them if they needed to add short notice? I think now that the supplies are plentiful that may not be necessary.”

The new community case in Sydney is the wife of a man in his 50s whose infection was announced on Wednesday. It remains a mystery how he contracted the virus as he has no obvious links to any outbreaks.

The nation’s chief medical officers met this morning to discuss the COVID scare, which Mr Cook described as a “very unusual” as it had yet to be linked to any point of transmission.

“At this point we're taking a precautionary approach, similar to how we did with the Byron Bay case, just to make sure that we're ready to pivot in the case that the risk does elevate,” he said.

“At this point in time we're simply saying, people who have been in those (Sydney) exposure sites should consider themselves a close contact until advised otherwise, and therefore need to take precautionary action.”

The current restrictions for Perth and Peel – which include compulsory masks, 30-person gathering limits at home and the closure of nightclubs, the Crown casino gaming floor and stadiums – are due to expire at 12.01am on Saturday.

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