Australia falls back to zero COVID-19 cases after hotel infection

FILE PHOTO: A medical worker swabs a member of the public at the Bondi Beach drive-through coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing centre as the city experiences an outbreak in Sydney, Australia, December 21, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

CANBERRA (Reuters) – Fears of a new cluster of COVID-19 cases in Australia eased on Tuesday, as the city of Perth maintained a strict lockdown and no new cases were detected across the country for a second day, Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

Australia ended two weeks without any local cases of the coronavirus on Sunday when a security guard working in hotel quarantine in the Western Australian state capital tested positive for COVID-19.

The city of more than 2 million was ordered into a five-day lockdown after the guard at a hotel used to house people returning from overseas was found to have the UK strain of the virus.

The unnamed man most likely contracted COVID-19 from a person who recently returned to the country, Western Australia state Premier Mark McGowan said on Tuesday.

“One of those recent arrivals was accommodated on the same floor as the security guard was working. We are advised that the guard did deliver medication to the door of this quarantine guest,” McGowan told reporters in Canberra.

McGowan said 101 close contacts of the security guard had so far tested negative to COVID-19. Another 50 people deemed close contacts were awaiting test results.

The vast, largely isolated state has been known in Australia for a hardline COVID-19 response that included keeping its border closed to the rest of the country until recently when it reopened to some regions.

Australia has managed to largely contain its novel coronavirus epidemic – limiting cases to less than 29,000 and deaths to 909 – with the sort of decisive action seen in Perth, and tight border controls.

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