Perth hostel locked down amid community COVID spread



A Fremantle hostel has been locked down and public health rules expanded after five more COVID cases were detected in Perth.

Premier Mark McGowan confirmed the latest cases on Friday afternoon, warning WA residents that more were likely to emerge.

“I know public health rules are not the news we wanted to hear just before Christmas. But they are necessary to keep us safe and
minimise any potential community spread of the virus, which would have far worse consequences,” he said.

“With the detection of these new cases and the big number of tests underway, more positive cases are expected, especially as we’re still in the infectious period from the exposure date.”

From 6pm Friday (local time), licensed venues across Perth will be restricted to seated service only.

Authorities have also locked down the Fremantle Old Fire Station Hostel amid fears up to 100 of its guests might have been exposed to the virus.

They were among 400 patrons at a Perth Mess Hall event on December 19, which was also attended by the visiting French backpacker who was confirmed with the virus on Thursday night.

All have been ordered to get COVID tests and remain in isolation until January 3.

The latest infections are one of the backpackers’ close contacts, three patrons from the Mess Hall – who do not know him – and a fifth case that was confirmed during Friday’s media briefing.

Two were vaccinated, two were not and one is unconfirmed.

Virus testing in WA jumped up to more than 10,000 after it was confirmed late on Thursday that the man had attended nightclubs and restaurants across Perth while infectious.

The backpacker, who arrived from Queensland and is originally from France, had felt unwell on Sunday but didn’t get tested until Wednesday.

He is believed to have been infectious for almost a week, unwittingly attending more than a dozen venues across Perth during that time.

His vaccinated girlfriend and four vaccinated housemates have tested negative and have been moved to hotel quarantine. They are among 21 close contacts, including four who have also tested negative.

There are 991 casual contacts, with 336 so far testing negative.

There are also new exposure sites across Perth, as a result of the four new cases. They include Mont Clare Boutique Apartments, shopping centres, a McDonald’s and a Woolworths.

See all of the latest WA exposure sites here

Up to 100 guests from Fremantle’s Old Fire Station Backpackers are considered casual contacts.

Mr McGowan confirmed the infectious man arrived in Australia before the pandemic on January 7, 2020.

He travelled to Perth from Queensland on December 12 – when travel rules allowed unvaccinated travellers from a state considered low-risk.

Queensland was upgraded to a medium-risk from low-risk the following day.

From Saturday, Queensland and South Australia will be upgraded to high-risk.

The border changes prompted questions about whether WA will reopen to the rest of Australia as planned from February 5.

“If we have community spread of the virus, we’ll have to consider what we do,” Mr McGowan said.

He said it was likely WA would have further community spread in coming days. If that was the case the date might change – but not necessarily getting pushed back.

“It may well come forward because if we have community spread of the virus … it may well be that February 5 becomes redundant.”

Residents of Perth and the Peel region were ordered to wear masks at all public indoor venues under an edict that came into effect from 6pm on Thursday.

It will remain until at least December 28 and also applies to people in other parts of the state who have been in Perth or Peel since December 16.

High-risk large public events including music festivals are cancelled during this time and all nightclubs closed.

The mask-wearing rule does not apply to home settings, including family Christmas Day gatherings or during vigorous outdoor exercise.

-with AAP

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