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Two more WA backpacker-linked COVID cases

Western Australia has detected two new local COVID-19 cases linked to an infected French backpacker who travelled from Queensland.

The state has ordered eight million rapid antigen tests, with Premier Mark McGowan saying he was watching NSW to learn how not to handle the pandemic.

A young woman who was a close contact of the unvaccinated 25-year-old index case is one of the new cases, Mr McGowan says.

She was also at a busy Perth Mess Hall dance party with 400 other people 10 days ago, many from the traveller community.

The event has been linked to several infections as the backpacker cluster grows to 12 infections.

The other case is another backpacker who was likely to have had contact with infected backpackers, Mr McGowan said.

“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”.

Contact tracers have identified 704 close contacts with 50 still to be tested.

“Of these, 44 were at the Mess Hall event (and) 16 people are unlikely to be contacted due to false or misleading information they provided through the contact register or ticket sales” Mr McGowan said.

“Police are working very hard to find these people”.

On Wednesday evening, WA Police arrested and charged a woman in Margaret River for failing to comply with directions.

Police say the 27-year-old arrived in WA from the Northern Territory on December 22 and was not at her registered premises, had not taken her 48-hour COVID-19 test and failed to wear a mask.

The woman has been taken into custody and is due to appear in Perth Magistrates Court on Thursday.

It comes as WA’s first dose vaccination rate climbs to 91.7 per cent for people over 12 and 83.6 per cent double dose.

“Our numbers continue to grow each and every day and over this period we will get further cases,” Mr McGowan said.

Asked if WA would continue to demand negative PCR test results from travellers, Mr McGowan said he would listen to the state’s health experts and discuss the matter at national cabinet on Thursday before changing the policy.

He also said the WA government was closely monitoring the case growth in NSW, saying it could learn not what to do after February 5 when the state plans to reopen its borders.

“They’ve chopped and changed on everything really. By watching NSW you can see what works and doesn’t work,’ Mr McGowan said.

“Generally what they do doesn’t work. Operate on the basis of don’t do what NSW does.”

He said WA had placed a “massive” rapid antigen test order and expected to have eight million units by February 5.

“What you don’t want to do is put them out there now and people use them when they don’t need to,” Mr McGowan said.

“It would just be a wasted resource and we need to save them until we need them”.

They are expected to be handed out free to residents and travellers.

Meanwhile, contact tracers attempting to use data collected via the SafeWA app are having difficulties because people have misspelled their names and addresses or input incorrect phone numbers when they registered.

Mr McGowan said it could delay a face mask mandate and health restrictions on gatherings being lifted on January 4 as planned.

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