WA has recorded two new COVID-19 cases overnight, killing any prospect of a last minute reprieve for New Year’s Eve celebrations.
The first of the new infections is a close contact of the French backpacker who brought the virus to WA and also attended the Perth Mess Hall rave on December 19.
After originally testing negative, the woman – who has been in self-isolation throughout their infectious period – returned a positive result overnight which Premier Mark McGowan said highlighted the “onset of the virus can occur later when it comes to the Delta variant”.
Both she and her housemates were moved into hotel quarantine Wednesday.
The second case, already in hotel quarantine, is a woman who was staying at a Fremantle backpackers that accounted for around 100 of the party goers at the Perth Mess Hall event.
Mr McGowan said the woman had not been at the rave and health authorities were still trying to determine how she acquired the virus.
“How she acquired it, we are not quite sure at this point in time,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
“But she says she wasn’t at the Mess Hall event.”
The number of untested close contacts rose overnight to 54 – 44 from Perth Mess Hall alone – which Mr McGowan attributed to a “reconciliation of the data available”.
WA Health has now identified 704 total close contacts. Of 1260 casual contacts, 214 are also yet to be tested.
Mr McGowan said of the Mess Hall attendees, 16 were unlikely to be found as police believed they had supplied inaccurate details when purchasing tickets or checking in via the SafeWA app.
Mr McGowan said police were working very hard to find the remaining close contacts including ringing them, asking their friends and even doorknocking addresses they may have been.
He claimed some may have also provided false information such as wrong phone numbers.
“They’re not in trouble … just go and get tested and do the right thing,” he said.
He believed some of the backpackers may have also travelled interstate.
It means harsh restrictions on WA’s hospitality industry will be kept in place until January 4, although Mr McGowan said he did not plan on extending restrictions further at this stage.
Music festivals and New Year’s Eve events have all been binned, with the Premier opting for a cautious approach to ensure the Delta outbreak does not continue to spread in the community.
The cancellations caused outrage among the events industry which claimed it was hypocritical to ban festivals but let the Perth Cup go ahead.
However, Mr McGowan said it was not a fair or reasonable comparison.
He said people were seated at cup events and had to be vaccinated, whereas music festivals had lots of dancing in close proximity.
“The alternative was to shut everything down and we didn’t want to do that,” he said.
“We’ve done our best.”
The latest outbreak was sparked by a foreign backpacker in his mid 20s who travelled to WA just an hour before stronger border controls with Queensland came into force.
He was infectious while in the community and attended a music event at the Perth Mess Hall.
That location has become a breeding ground for COVID and has forced hundreds of attendees into isolation.
Speaking about the opening of the WA border, he said he expected rapid antigen testing to be available in the State past February 5.
He said WA was in a prime position because it could watch how the COVID situation was unfolding in other States.
Mr McGowan said also said there would be new definitions of close contacts and quarantine protocols.
He said having close contacts in isolation – who worked in places like power stations and health – would cause workforce issues.
The Premier has encouraged eligible people to get their booster shots and continue wearing masks.
He received his third dose of the vaccine on Wednesday.
The testing clinic in Kwinana he attended had dozens of people queuing for vaccines ahead of the February 5 border opening date.