SYDNEY - A snap three-day COVID-19 lockdown is set to end Monday in the Australian city of Perth. The shutdown was ordered Friday after the man — a traveler who returned from overseas — escaped from a quarantine hotel housing other passengers returning from abroad. The Australian Medical Association said authorities are not doing enough to protect returned travelers in enforcing mandatory quarantine from infections and hotel facilities were not built to contain the spread of the virus.
Perth’s lockdown will end Monday after Western Australia recorded no new community coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours. Businesses and schools will be allowed to reopen. Some restrictions will remain for the next four days. Masks will be mandatory, and gatherings will be limited to 20 people.
The lockdown was imposed Friday after the virus spread in the corridors of an isolation hotel in the Western Australian state capital. A 54-year-old man staying adjacent to a couple with coronavirus, who had returned from India, was infected.
Officials have said the traveler was allowed to leave the hotel after testing negative for the virus and after a two-week isolation period. But he returned a positive result a few days later. Two other people are known to have been infected as health authorities have raced to track hundreds of other close or casual contacts of the man, who spent days in Perth before flying to Melbourne.
Australia has banned foreign travelers for more than a year to curb the spread of COVID-19, but citizens and permanent residents are allowed to return, where they face mandatory quarantine. Australia is now limiting arrivals from India because of the worsening coronavirus crisis there.
The country’s association for doctors and medical students, the Australian Medical Association, or the AMA, believes that hotels are not properly equipped or built to contain the spread of the virus.
AMA president Dr. Omar Khorshid is calling on Australia’s federal and state governments to set up purpose-built isolation facilities.
“I suspect everyone has thought that the vaccine program would mean the end of the need for quarantine," he said. "But as we are seeing more and more mutations in the virus and these huge outbreaks, for instance, what is happening in India, the reality is that we are going to need quarantine for some time even once our population is vaccinated. So, what we would like to see is our national Cabinet, which is now meeting again twice a week, you know, come together and work out a pathway towards dedicated quarantine facilities that can be used either in this pandemic or in future pandemics.”
Australia has managed to avoid the worst of the global pandemic.
Fewer that 30,000 COVID-19 cases have been diagnosed and more than 900 deaths recorded, according to health authorities.