Police say a 53-year-old man will be charged with breaching quarantine directions after triggering a COVID-19 scare at a Western Australian pub.
- The man flew in from Queensland without permission
- Police say the 53-year-old then defied an order to go into hotel quarantine
- He attended a backpackers and bar, but later tested negative to COVID-19
The alleged quarantine breach saw Perth’s Hotel Northbridge shut down last night and dozens of people ordered to self-isolate.
Police allege the man returned to WA on Friday after visiting family in Queensland without first applying for permission to return to the state.
In a statement WA Police said the man complained of chest pains when he arrived at Perth Airport.
“He was permitted entry to the state and was issued a hospital direction and conveyed by ambulance,” the statement said.
“After receiving treatment at a medical facility he was instructed to wait for transport to hotel quarantine.
“[But] police were advised that the man left prior to the transport arriving.”
The hotel on Lake St voluntarily closed for cleaning after being caught up in the alleged quarantine breach.(ABC News: Greg Pollock)
Officers said the man visited a backpackers hostel and then went to a bar at Hotel Northbridge.
Police said they received health advice that the man presented a low risk of having COVID-19 but was being tested as a precaution.
His COVID-19 test returned a negative result this morning.
Patrons ‘not taking things seriously’
Hospital worker Jamie Jones was at the hotel with friends when police arrived.
“All these cops rocked up and then we were kind of shut in,” she said.
“We weren’t allowed to leave for a little while. And then one of my friends said someone had broken out of hotel quarantine and come to the pub for a drink.”
Ms Jones said she followed the instructions given by police, but a lot of other people who had been at the bar did not seem to be taking things seriously.
“I think a lot of people were going out and just going to continue on for the night and were kind of sneaking off,” she said.
“I was like ‘no, I’m getting in my car, I’m going home.'”
Confusion over need for COVID test
ABC reporter Briana Shepherd was also at the hotel on Friday night.
She said police took down the details of the hotel’s patrons, telling them to self-isolate and get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible.
The ABC’s Briana Shepherd gives her details to police.(Supplied)
However she said when she turned up to a Perth COVID-19 clinic to be tested this morning, she and others in the line who had been at the hotel the night before were told they would not be tested.
“It was extremely confusing because the directions from police last night were to go home, self-isolate and get tested as soon as possible,” she said.
“Instead we were told we can’t be tested because it’s too early for a test to pick anything up even if any of us had been exposed.”
A line outside of the Perth CBD COVID clinic on Saturday morning.(ABC News: Briana Shepherd)
Ms Shepherd described the process as ‘unorganised’.
“My boyfriend called the police and relayed what we had been told and they said to head home and call the hotel back in four hours when the man who allegedly breached his orders would have his test results back.
“But beyond that we weren’t told whether we would still need to isolate or what would happen going ahead.”
Acting Deputy Commissioner Paul Steel addressed the media on Saturday afternoon and said there was no risk to the public.
“I have been told that the advice for the people who were at the hotel last night is the risk is low, extremely low, and there is no need to quarantine nor is there any requirement for them to undertake any test,” he said.
Police praised the hotel for voluntarily closing its bar and conducting a deep clean of the venue.(ABC News: Greg Pollock)
Response to breach a ‘failure’
The WA president of the Australian Medical Association, Andrew Miller, said he expected the situation to be better managed by authorities.
“The police on the front line are doing an amazing job, as are the front line health workers but it tells you that things are not well enough organised in the way things are being communicated,” he said.
“We would expect by now that this would be running like a military operation, instead it’s still looking a lot like keystone cops unfortunately and we’re a number of months into this.”
Dr Andrew Miller said the incident showed there were failures in WA’s quarantine management process.(ABC News: Eliza Borrello)
Dr Miller said it was disappointing there did not yet seem to be a secure plan to ensure people follow quarantine requirements.
“If this keeps on happening as it will because people don’t do what you tell them to do then eventually the disease is going to break out in Western Australia and the Government is going to have to explain why they didn’t have a better system,” he said.
“We’ve been lucky in Western Australia because we’re so isolated and we’ve been smart with our border closure but the luck’s not going to last forever.
“So these are all little trial runs, these are all tests to see how we’re going to cope with it and frankly last night, Perth, we failed.”
“No excuses”: Premier
WA Premier Mark McGowan said the situation was “completely unacceptable” and would not be tolerated.
WA Premier Mark McGowan said the man’s behaviour was unacceptable.(ABC News: Hugh Sando)
“There are no excuses for lying your way into our state,” he said in a statement.
“Ambulance, hospital and police resources were all used to deal with this person.
“He will now face the serious penalties that come with breaking our border laws and a direction to quarantine.
“It sends a message to anyone thinking of trying to sneak into WA you will get caught.”
Man quarantining under police guard
Police said the hotel’s management elected to close the venue and undertake cleaning.
The man has now been ordered into hotel quarantine under police guard and will be summonsed for failing to comply with official directions.
He will appear in court at a later date.
There were no new cases of COVID-19 in WA overnight, leaving the state’s total number of cases at 655 with nine of those still active.
Western Australia has not recorded any community transmission of COVID-19 for several months.
A number of people, including two women who flew into Perth from South Australia, have been charged with breaching WA’s quarantine rules.
And a 28-year-old woman who snuck across WA’s border hidden in the back of a truck was earlier this week handed a six-month jail term for the offence.
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