Aged-care outbreak grows amid Western Australian virus spike



Another six COVID-19 cases have been detected at a West Australian aged-care home as the state posts record daily infection numbers.

WA Health on Thursday reported 37 local Omicron cases among a total of 139 new infections, both record figures for the state.

A further five residents and one staff member have tested positive at Juniper’s Cygnet residential care home in the Perth suburb of Bentley.

It takes the facility’s outbreak to eight cases, after a man in his 70s and a staff member had earlier become infected.

The home, which accommodates people living with dementia, has been closed to all visitors indefinitely but residents are not being confined to their rooms.

“I want to reassure everyone that we are continuing to work hard to protect and care for all residents and staff,” Juniper chief executive Chris Hall said in a statement.

“While this is a challenging time, I am confident we are well prepared for the situation we now find ourselves in. We have been planning for this for many months and we have taken note of lessons learned from our eastern states counterparts.”

Mr Hall said staff had contacted residents’ loved ones and would ensure they maintained connections during the lockdown.

He earlier told ABC radio the man in his 70s, who was the facility’s first confirmed case, was symptomatic but “doing really well”.

The outbreak’s source was unknown, Mr Hall said.

Of the facility’s 40 residents, 38 were triple vaccinated and one was double dosed, with arrangements being made to vaccinate one who was yet to be jabbed.

WA’s continued surge in travel-related cases comes after the state government softened its hard border rules, allowing more people to reunite with families.

More than 17,500 people have arrived in recent days with a requirement to self-quarantine for seven days and get tested.

Premier Mark McGowan said the spike in infections had vindicated his decision to indefinitely postpone removing all border restrictions.

“One could only imagine the kind of seeding event that could have taken place under the original plan with far higher arrival numbers and no quarantine protocols,” he told reporters.

“The decision to delay the full border opening was the right thing to do for the safety of the people of this state.”

The premier reiterated that the hard border settings would be reviewed throughout February, with WA’s third-dose vaccination rate a key consideration.

About 48 per cent of eligible West Australians have now received their booster.

Mr McGowan on Thursday announced a $77 million support package for businesses affected by the delay in reopening the borders.

It includes a support program for tourism businesses that incurred expenses in anticipation of the borders reopening.

Grants of up to $50,000 will be offered to operators who were forced to refund deposits from cancelled interstate and international bookings.

Funding will also be provided to international education providers and students to assist with quarantine-related costs, while programs to support the aviation and events industries will each receive a $10 million boost.

WA’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomed the funding but said the state’s reputation among tourists, students and investors had been damaged.

“CCIWA looks forward to the state government announcing a new date to ease our border restrictions, which is the only sustainable, long-term solution to relieve chronic worker shortages, supply chain delays and higher costs,” chief executive Chris Rodwell said.


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