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Mark McGowan press convention: Five new COVID cases tied to French backpacker

WA has recorded five new local COVID-19 cases tied to an unvaccinated French backpacker who arrived from Queensland earlier this month, forcing hundreds into isolation and prompting a new public health rule.

Premier Mark McGowan told reporters on Christmas Eve that one of the cases was a close contact who also attended the Perth Mess Hall event on December 19, while the other four were casual contacts.

Those casual contacts were among some 400 punters at the event in Northbridge but did not know case 1133.

“The advice I have is that two are vaccinated, two are unvaccinated, one we don’t know,” Mr McGowan said.

“It may be Omicron but we suspect it’s Delta.”

The Perth Mess Hall in Northbridge is at the centre of the latest Covid-19 outbreak after a French backpacker visited the venue which has resulted in 4 new cases
Camera IconThe Perth Mess Hall in Northbridge. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper/The West Australian

The 25-year-old Frenchman, who has been in Australia since before the pandemic, arrived in WA on December 12 – just one hour before the border restrictions were strengthened with Queensland.

He felt sick on Sunday and got tested on Wednesday, with the “strong positive” result coming through on Thursday. Some 10,267 COVID tests were undertaken Thursday in the wake of the positive case.

“Our health authorities will upgrade the contact status for the Mess Hall event. This means that anyone who attended the event must get tested and self quarantine for 14 days from the date of exposure,” Mr McGowan said, meaning they’ll be in quarantine until January 3 – missing Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.

Mr McGowan said he expected more positive cases to follow, “especially as we’re still in the infectious period from the exposure date”.

The Premier also revealed authorities had locked down the Old Fire Station hostel in Fremantle, with as many as 100 of its occupants believed to have attended the Mess Hall event.

“As this accommodation is not suitable to self quarantine in, everyone staying in that hostel will now be provided more suitable accommodation to complete their quarantine period,” the Premier said.

Police stand outside the Old Fire Station Backpackers in Fremantle following a positive COVID case in Perth on Thursday.
Camera IconPolice are standing outside the Old Fire Station Backpackers in Fremantle following a positive COVID case in Perth on Thursday. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

The new cases have also triggered the State Government to limit licensed hospitality venues – including large pubs and bars – to seated service only.

“So, from 6pm tonight, we will apply the seated service only requirements for all licensed hospitality venues,” he said.

“This is on top of the public health and safety measures we introduced yesterday, including mask-wearing, banned dancing (except at weddings) and the closure of high-risk entertainment venues and large-scale events.

“These additional requirements are in place until Tuesday morning December 28, which will help us further limit any potential spread of COVID-19 in the community.”

Police stand outside the Old Fire Station Backpackers in Fremantle following a positive COVID case in Perth on Thursday.
Camera IconPolice stand outside the Old Fire Station Backpackers in Fremantle following a positive COVID case in Perth on Thursday. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

The Premier also talked about the introduction of a proof-of-vaccination requirement for a range of venues which could be in place by February 5, if not earlier – “depending how this outbreak plays out”.

WA’s vaccination rate has hit 91.3 per cent for first doses among West Aussies aged over 12. It sits at 83.2 per cent for second doses in those older than 12 years of age.

Masks are mandatory in all public indoor settings, including workplaces, shopping centres, hospitality venues and public transport.

The mask mandate does not apply at home or for people doing vigorous indoor exercise, but it is recommended outside when you cannot physically distance.

WA has recorded five new local COVID-19 cases tied to a French backpacker who arrived from Queensland, Premier Mark McGowan has revealed.
Camera IconWA has recorded five new local COVID-19 cases tied to a French backpacker who arrived from Queensland, Premier Mark McGowan has revealed. Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

Large public events, such as music festivals, have been cancelled, while nightclubs have also closed and all dancing is banned except for weddings.

The mask rules also apply to anyone who has been in Perth or Peel since December 16 and is now in a different part of the state.

Meanwhile both South Australia (688 new infections) and Queensland (589 new cases) will be reclassified from medium risk to high risk jurisdictions.

The new border arrangements will be locked in from midnight tonight, meaning arrivals must be vaccinated and quarantine for 14 days, on top of having a G2G application approved

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