WA has recorded one new COVID case overnight – a 27-year-old unvaccinated backpacker who was infectious while in the community.
Announcing the latest infection, Premier Mark McGowan said the man had shared a bathroom with a previous case.
He was transferred to hotel quarantine on Thursday morning and four new exposure sites have so far been linked to the man, all in the Fremantle area between Boxing Day and December 28.
They include Farmer Jacks Spearwood on December 26, climbing gym Portside Boulders in O’Connor on December 27 and Domino’s East Fremantle and BP Fremantle on December 28.
The Health Department also last night added exposure sites for a case announced Wednesday at Preston Beach south of Mandurah, the Bunbury Train Station and the Bunbury to Perth Australind Train on December 28 – with anyone on that service required to immediately get tested and isolate for 14 days regardless of the result.
Restrictions in Perth and Peel including mask wearing and bans on nightclubs and major events have not been extended to the South West despite the new exposure sites.
“We haven’t considered that at this point in time,” Mr McGowan said, adding anyone visiting the South West from Perth until January 4 was required to wear a mask.
The number of untested close contacts linked to the current outbreak – which now stands at 13 cases – dropped to 40 overnight, 16 of whom Mr McGowan has previously said were unlikely to be found because they had provided false details when purchasing tickets to a rave at the Perth Mess Hall that became a superspreading event.
“Of the 40 yet to be tested, 31 were patrons from the Perth Mess Hall Event,” Mr McGowan said.
“As I said yesterday, a number of attendees will not be able to be located by WA Police due to false or misleading contact information provided.”
“Our (contact tracing) system’s working very well, it’s just it’s hard to get a hold of some of these people – they’re backpackers.
“They live a bit of a different lifestyle to many of us and so they’re hard to get a hold of.”
Anyone who attended that party has been encouraged to come forward and the Premier said they would not be in trouble for the delay.
Some 680 other close contacts have now been cleared of the virus. Of 1488 casual contacts, 328 have not yet been swabbed.
Mr McGowan also announced a $30 million compensation package for creative and performing arts, catering, rental, hiring services and hospitality businesses affected by the recent Christmas restrictions.
The restrictions were put into place after a backpacker from Queensland spread the virus in WA.
It cost the hospitality industry tens of thousands of dollars.
Mr McGowan said night clubs which had been forced to close will be eligible for a one-off $20,000 grant, while impacted small businesses will be eligible for up to $12,500, and sole traders will be eligible for up to $4,400.
However, businesses will need to prove their income has dropped by 30 per cent.
Mr McGowan said it was more generous than previous compensation payments, but said some people would probably still say it wasn’t enough.
Applications for the grants will open in the New Year.
He said people should return home immediately to prevent being locked out.
Speaking on the National Cabinet decision, Mr McGowan said WA was in a different position to other states and could afford to not reduce isolation or close contact definitions.
“WA is different, we don’t have large numbers of cases, we’re in a different position to other states,” he said.
“We will adopt those rules in the future if we get to high caseloads.”
Mr McGowan said it wouldn’t be before February 5.
It comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed five States would change the definition of a close contact, WA was not included in the shift.
Under the new regime, close contacts would only have to isolate for seven days as opposed to 14.
Close contacts will now be defined as someone who has spent at least four hours with someone in a household.
Asymptomatic cases will be allowed to use a rapid antigen test, but people with symptoms have to take a PCR test.
“As I said, in Western Australia, it is a very different situation. Their arrangements, at present, can deal with the volumes with their testing and tracing because they have so few cases there,” Mr Morrison said.
The changes have been slammed by Australian Medical Association national president Omar Khorshid who said the new rules could enable infectious people to unknowingly spread the virus.
Dr Khorshid said people in venues such as pubs and clubs had become some of the most rapidly infected people once there was a super-spreader in the community and would be ignored under the new regime.
“They won’t be asked to go get tested, they won’t be asked to isolate and by the time they realise they’re sick, they’ve already given it to many other people,” Dr Khorshid said on talkback radio.
He said reducing the isolation time for people who tested negative made more sense than ignoring close contacts.