Western Australia premier Mark McGowan has urged the federal government to suspend flights out of India, describing the South Asian nation as the “epicentre of death and destruction”.
Mr McGowan on Tuesday said WA emerged from its snap lockdown with a $70 million hit to the state economy but no new locally acquired cases.
He said the state had recorded four new infections from returned travellers in hotel quarantine while raising concerns about the integrity of pre-flight testing conducted in India.
“There needs to be a suspension,” Mr McGowan told reporters.
“We obviously have a problem with India … some of the tests being conducted either aren’t accurate or aren’t believable, and clearly that’s causing some issues here.”
“People have gone over there … for weddings, funerals or to play sport, and I don’t think that was necessary.
“It’s a big risk to our hotel quarantine system and you can see the consequences.”
Interim restrictions remain in place in WA until 12.01am on Saturday, including the mandatory wearing of face masks and limits on gatherings.
Two locally acquired infections were found from more than 29,000 tests after the virus leaked out of Perth’s Mercure quarantine hotel.
WA’s health department was aware of ventilation issues at the Mercure but had believed the risk could be mitigated.
The outbreak has renewed hotel quarantine concerns and prompted calls for the federal government to invest in purpose-built facilities.
Mr McGowan has urged the Commonwealth to open air bases and Christmas Island to accommodate returned travellers.
He earlier accused the federal government of wanting the states to “do all the work” in managing returned travellers.
“If they are not prepared to do it, we will just have to drop the number of returning people into Australia,” he said on Monday.
“And that will be sad for many families but we can’t go through these sorts of events.”
The premier apologised for the lockdown but said he would not hesitate to implement such a response again.
WA’s cap on international arrivals will be halved to 512 a week for the next month and Mr McGowan has not ruled out extending the reduction.
Federal leaders insist facilities such as air bases are not suitable for quarantine.
The prime minister’s office released figures showing 140,355 people had entered hotel quarantine in the past six months.
Thirteen breakouts were recorded across the nation, fewer than 0.01 per cent of quarantine travellers.
The guest at the Mercure whose infection led to the outbreak had secured an exemption to travel to India last December to get married.
He and his bride tested positive in hotel quarantine upon returning to Australia earlier this month.
Genomic testing has confirmed the virus spread from the couple to several other guests in nearby rooms, including a Melbourne man who did not test positive until after he had completed quarantine and spent five days in the community.
He went on to infect two other people.
Authorities have identified 354 close contacts of confirmed cases and 222 had by Monday returned negative test results.