WA Health Minister Roger Cook said the latest deaths were “devastating news”. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)
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Western Australia has recorded two more COVID-19 deaths, bringing the toll of the virus in the state to six.
An overseas man aged in his 70s who was infected on the Artania cruise ship has died at Joondalup Hospital.
In addition, a West Australian woman aged in her 70s who had returned from overseas travel has died at Royal Perth Hospital.
It is the highest daily death toll WA has recorded since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.
The national death toll now stands at 48.
Health Minister Roger Cook described the developments as “devastating news”.
“This disease can kill, and if we are not taking the measures required it will take others,” he said.
Mr Cook said WA had recorded just 10 new cases of the virus within the past 24 hours, taking the state’s total number of COVID-19 infections to 470.
Out of WA’s 470 confirmed cases of the virus, 170 have recovered, but 54 remain in hospital with 15 in intensive care.
The latest positive tests include another person in the Kimberley town of Halls Creek.
There are now 14 cases of the virus in the Kimberley, with Mr Cook saying the region “remains of great concern”.
Kimberley healthcare worker patients in isolation
Half of the Kimberley cases are healthcare workers, including the two patients in Halls Creek.
Mr Cook said contact tracing was being conducted around the latest worker, who had come into contact with an infected colleague.
A dedicated COVID-19 clinic will be opened at Broome Hospital tomorrow. (ABC News: Matt Bamford)
He said two patients of the new case had been identified as close contacts and were now in self-isolation and were being monitored.
Regional WA has now recorded 51 positive tests for coronavirus, including:
- 14 in the Kimberley
- Five in the Pilbara
- Nine in the South West
- Nine in the Great Southern
- Eight in the Wheatbelt
- Three in the Mid West
- Three in the Goldfields
Mr Cook urged anyone in the Kimberley who had a fever or a respiratory illness to take advantage of the expanded testing criteria and get checked.
He said that could be done at any public hospital or remote clinic in the region and at a new dedicated COVID-19 clinic due to open at Broome hospital tomorrow.
Who should present to COVID-19 clinics?
- General public: People who have BOTH a fever AND acute respiratory infection (eg shortness of breath, cough, sore throat)
- High-risk workers: People with EITHER a fever OR acute respiratory infection (including healthcare workers and police officers)
- High-risk settings: People with EITHER a fever OR acute respiratory infection who have attended the following settings where two or more have contracted symptoms — cruise ships, aged care centres, Aboriginal communities, correctional facilities, military barracks, boarding schools or geographically isolated areas with increased risk (eg the Kimberley)
Patients who are tested should remain isolated at home until they receive their test results.
Major clinics have been set up at hospitals including Royal Perth, Sir Charles Gairdner, Fiona Stanley, Joondalup, Armadale, Rockingham and St John of God Midland.
They are open from 8:00am–8:00pm daily.
In regional WA, a clinic is operating at Bunbury Health Campus from 10:00am–4:00pm daily.
For more information go to the Health Department website.
“My message is if you are not well and you are worried, there is help and support and you should please seek advice. If you have symptoms you must get tested,” he said.
A total of 3,787 people in the regions have tested negative to the disease.
Pandemic could have killed 30,000 in WA: Premier
Premier Mark McGowan said the crisis in WA was far from over, despite the low number of cases.
The Government now expects the COVID-19 crisis to peak much later in the year, possibly in November. (ABC News: James Carmody)
“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” Mr McGowan said.
“Even though the numbers in WA are promising … we have no reason whatsoever to get complacent now.”
Mr McGowan played down the prospect of social distancing restrictions being eased due to the limited spread of the virus.
“The advice I am giving everyone is to look forward to a hard, long six months,” the Premier said.
The WA update came on the back of modelling released by the Federal Government, outlining what may have occurred had social distancing rules not been enacted.
Mr McGowan said the modelling showed up to 30,000 West Australians could have died if nothing had been done about the virus.
Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak
Mr Cook said the slowed growth in COVID-19 cases in WA meant the state was now expecting the crisis to peak much later in the year, citing November as a possibility.
“A long, flat curve is much better for the community than a sharp, high one,” he said.
Second death from Artania cruise ship
The latest death from the Artania is the second fatality from the vessel in WA in just a few days, with cases from cruise ships now making up 36 per cent of coronavirus infections in the state.
The WA Government wants the Artania to leave Fremantle Port urgently.
(AAP: Richard Wainwright)
“It must be incredibly difficult for their families on the other side of the world,” Mr Cook said.
“We extend our condolences to all involved.”
Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter has defended the Commonwealth’s handling of the Artania, which remains docked in Fremantle.
The vessel, which had no Australians on board, is responsible for about 50 cases of coronavirus in WA hotels and hospitals.
The WA Government had been agitating for the vessel to leave urgently, but Mr Porter said an appropriate compromise had been reached.
“There has been an appropriate balance struck, in terms of looking after the individuals on these ships regardless of their nationality, but also ensuring there was proper quarantine,” he said.
“There will be some tensions along the way but it is about finding the right balance.”
Mr McGowan also confirmed 235 exemptions had been made to allow people into Western Australia since the state’s interstate border was shut on Sunday night.
A total of 70 people have been allowed in by air and 165 by road, while two people have been sent back.
Three on-the-spot fines of $1,000 have been issued over the past few days to people not obeying social distancing and travel rules.
Another eight people have been issued with summonses and will be dealt with by the courts, with anyone found guilty facing fines of up to $50,000.
Year 12 exams likely to go ahead
The Premier made no new announcements about whether WA schools would be open next term, or about the fate of ATAR exams for Year 12 students.
The Premier said work was underway to determine how Year 12 exams would go ahead. (ABC News: Katrin Long, file photo)
He said any decisions would have wait until Thursday, when federal and state education ministers who met today would provide a report to the National Cabinet.
But Mr McGowan did say as far as the WA Government was concerned, ATAR exams would proceed this year.
“It would have to be some sort of disaster to prevent that occurring,” he said.
“It may mean that exams are later in the year, it may mean that courses are reconfigured to reflect the shorter time period that students may have to study.
“All of that work is being done, but ATAR as far as we’re concerned is going ahead this year.”
Parliament to debate urgent legislation next week
Meanwhile, the Government has confirmed plans to recall State Parliament next week to pass urgent coronavirus-related legislation.
MPs have been told the Lower House will sit next Wednesday and the Upper House on Thursday, to consider more measures to deal with the impact of COVID-19.
Among the items expected to be on the agenda is the use of Lotterywest revenue as a support fund for not-for-profit organisations, exemptions for payroll tax related to payments from the JobKeeper scheme and changes to commercial tenancy arrangements agreed to by national cabinet.
Mr McGowan said commercial rents “would need to come down”.
“Commercial tenants have had revenue collapse, commercial rents should reflect this,” he said.
“I don’t want to see any tenant lose their business and then be sued for their house just because they cannot pay their rent during this period.”
Mr McGowan said the Government was also “assessing options” to provide land tax relief, but no commitments had been made.
State Parliament will again be subject to strict social distancing measures for its recalled sitting, with more than half of Lower House MPs told to stay away from the chamber last week.
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