Australia’s two-week run with no case of community coronavirus transmission has ended with a case in Perth causing a five-day lockdown of the western city.
The state of Western Australia had gone 10 months without a locally transmitted case of the virus.
On Sunday, Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan and Health Minister Roger Cook said a hotel security guard in his twenties had tested positive for the virus.
Mr McGowan said it was possible the man had also worked as a ride-share driver while infected. As of Monday, authorities in Perth had tracked and traced 66 people who may have come into contact with the man, testing more than 3,000 people over the weekend.
“I know for many Western Australians this is going to come as a shock,” he said.
“Western Australians have done so well for so long, but this week it is absolutely crucial that we stay home, maintain physical distancing and personal hygiene, and get tested if you have symptoms.
“This is a very serious situation, and each and every one of us has to do everything we personally can to stop the spread in the community.”
It is believed the man has a new, more infectious strain of Covid-19.
The revelation that the infected security guard may have also worked as a driver sparked anger.
The use of casual guards working at several sites was a factor behind Melbourne’s disastrous second wave in 2020.
Mr McGowan announced that the Labor Party would suspend its election campaign. Voters are due to go to the polls on March 13.
Opposition Leader Zak Kirkup also suspended the Liberal Party’s campaign and supported the government’s strategy.
“Please look out for each other," Mr Kirkup said. "We have got through this before and we will do it again.
"Remain calm. Follow the advice. Keep each other safe. The coming days will be tough."
Mr Cook released a list of sites, mostly in eastern Perth, that the man had visited, collated through his use of a Covid-19 tracking app promoted by the state government.
The Government said schools, due to open for the new term on Monday, would remain closed.
Bars, pubs, restaurants and many other public venues would also shut as of 6pm on Sunday.
Indoor sporting venues, playgrounds, skate parks and other outdoor recreational spaces are shut for the lockdown, as are cinemas, casinos, entertainment venues, places of worship, libraries and museums.
Care homes and hospitals will no longer admit visitors. Restaurants and cafes must stop providing in-house dining but can offer takeaways.
Non-essential workers have been urged to stay at home and all others to do the same if possible.
People must wear masks if leaving their homes.
On Sunday afternoon, a man in Perth was arrested and refused bail for refusing to wear a mask.
He was approached by police outside Midland shopping centre, one of the sites identified as an infection risk, directed to wear a mask and offered one (for free). He refused, and was taken into custody.
The fine for refusing to wear a mask in public is A$1,000.
The restrictions cover the Perth metropolitan area, Peel and the South West – three regions covering most of Western Australia’s population.
Mr McGowan, a strong supporter of strict border closures to fight Covid-19, urged the governments of other states and territories to “put a stop to any travel into WA as an extra precautionary measure”.
“Border controls are important here and I support them to ensure that we can get through this,” he said.
Western Australia had a relatively uneventful 2020, with a combination of luck, geographical isolation, a short lockdown and strict border controls averting a serious outbreak.
The state of almost 2.8 million people has recorded only 903 Covid-19 cases and nine deaths.
Mr McGowan said people in the lockdown regions were required to stay at home, with four exceptions including shopping for essentials such as groceries and medicine, health care and looking after the vulnerable.
Exercise close to home is allowed, but only alone or with one other person, and for a maximum of one hour a day.
Under the restrictions, only 10 people will be allowed to attend funerals, and weddings have been cancelled for the duration of the lockdown.
People will not be allowed to visit other households unless caring for someone vulnerable or in an emergency.