WA records COVID case after French backpacker travels to Perth from Queensland

Masks are mandatory in all indoor public places and a series of festivals will be canceled after a 25-year-old French backpacker positive for COVID visited Perth for nearly two weeks.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said the man arrived from Queensland on the night of Sunday, December 12, just before the introduction of a stricter border with that state.

At this point, Mr McGowan said the case was likely the Delta strain rather than Omicron.

The man’s girlfriend is symptomatic. They are both in quarantine at the hotel.

The man lives with four other people in a house in Girrawheen – all have been contacted and are undergoing tests.

Prime Minister urges people to get tested

WA Health has identified several exhibition sites, including Aldi and Kmart at The Square Mirrabooka and Vinnies Mirrabooka mall on December 22.

McDonald’s Girrawheen, Perth Mess Hall, Connections Nightclub and Geisha Nightclub were visited on December 19.

Mark McGowan said masks will become mandatory in all indoor public places just two days before Christmas.(ABC News: James Carmody)

Other venues include Dan Murphy’s Joondalup on December 18th, Bloody French Restaurant in Subiaco and Palace Cinema Raine Square on December 17th, Galway Hooker Pub, Scarborough Sunset Markets and WA Museum Boola Bardip on December 16th.

“If you’ve been to one of the exhibit sites or if you’re not feeling well, it’s important to get tested,” Mr. McGowan said.

“The clinics are ramping up and will stay open until 10 p.m. tonight.

The exterior of the Geisha Bar in Northbridge.
Geisha Bar says it was an exhibition site between 12am and 3am on Sunday morning.(ABC News: Rebecca Trigger)

Close contacts should be tested and isolated for 14 days, while casual contacts should be isolated until they test negative.

Mr McGowan said the overwhelming majority of contact at present has been casual.

“We know of five close contacts – the backpacker’s girlfriend and his four roommates,” he said.

He warned that number could increase.

New mask rules in place, but lockdown unlikely

Mr McGowan said the backpacker was using the Safe WA app.

“This allowed our contact tracers to reach hundreds of people,” he said.

“It’s an important reminder for us to continue registering, now more than ever.”

Health workers are now trying to replenish the level of risk, and McGowan said immediate action needs to be taken to protect the community.

From 6:00 p.m. tonight until at least 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday, December 28, a number of rules will apply in Perth and Peel.

Masks will be mandatory in all indoor public places, including workplaces, public transport, shopping malls and reception areas.

The mandate does not apply to the home or to people exercising vigorously indoors.

Masks are recommended for outdoors when you cannot physically distance yourself.

“Not the Christmas news we wanted to hear”

Large, high-risk public events like music festivals will be canceled during this time and all nightclubs closed.

The masks will also apply to anyone who has been to Perth and Peel since December 16 and is now in another part of the state.

“I know this isn’t the news we wanted to hear two days before Christmas, but sadly that’s the reality of COVID-19,” McGowan said.

“No matter how tough our border controls are, the virus can sneak into Western Australia.”

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Long lines have formed at drive-thru testing clinics in Perth as exhibition sites have been confirmed.

Earlier today, several sites in Perth said they had been contacted by WA Health and informed that they were sites of exposure to COVID-19.

Locations include Geisha Bar in Northbridge and Perth Mess Hall in Perth’s business district.

Geisha Bar posted on social media that it was an exhibition site between 12am and 3am on Sunday morning.

“We are working with WA Health to provide all contact records and are awaiting further instructions,” they wrote.

The Geisha nightclub was closed this afternoon and no one opened the door.

A spokesperson for Perth Mess Hall on Francis Street in the city said the Department of Health had contacted him and staff and customers should get tested for COVID-19 and self-isolate until ‘they receive a negative result.

Crowd in dark Geisha Bar nightclub
The Geisha Bar in the heart of Northbridge was packed on Saturday evening, an HIV-positive person visited the place.(Provided: Geisha Bar)

The spokesperson said this came after a person with COVID-19 HIV visited the scene on Sunday.

He said that at the time there were around 400 people and 13 employees at the site.

A cleaning lady outside Connections nightclub in Northbridge, also named in reports on potential exhibition sites, said she had not been made aware of any COVID incidents.

Yesterday Premier Mark McGowan said the closures were not part of the government’s plans for any potential COVID outbreak in the capital before the border opened on February 5.

He said immunization levels were high enough that lockdowns were not needed.

“In terms of a foreclosure for Perth, Peel or the South West, no, that’s not part of our planning,” he said.

“But if we have an epidemic before February 5, obviously we are putting in place social public health measures… .. that kind of thing is on the table.”

A wide shot of the facade of Perth's Mess.
A spokesperson for Perth Mess Hall said around 400 people were at the scene at the stated time.(ABC News: Rebecca Trigger)

There have been a number of sites in WA visited by confirmed cases of COVID in the past two weeks, but none have so far resulted in locally acquired cases.

Two Brisbane travelers tested positive while in home isolation, with a 7-Eleven in Midland and the airport listed as exposure sites.

Three truck drivers from South Australia entered Washington state with negative tests and then tested positive, with locations of exposure ranging from Norseman to the southern suburbs of Perth.

People flock to COVID testing centers

Queues are forming at COVID testing centers around Perth.

At the clinic at Royal Perth Hospital, workers wearing face shields and personal protective equipment distributed hand sanitizer and face masks.

They are also handing out water bottles as the covered tent is full and people are lining up in the scorching sun.

Two French women queuing at a Perth testing clinic said they received a text from WA Health about their potential exposure to COVID after attending a party at Perth Mess Hall.

A health worker distributes water to a person awaiting a COVID test at RPH.
Queues for COVID tests are increasing at Royal Perth Hospital.(ABC News: Rebecca Trigger)

Christmas plans have now gone out the window for the couple.

“We had plans, we were supposed to have dinner with friends – in the end, we’re going to spend Christmas alone, so it’s pretty boring,” said Rama Diop.

“But that’s what it is.”

Marie Marsaa said it was very difficult to be away from her family in France for Christmas and that she would not be able to see friends either.

Despite the potential exposure to COVID, Ms. Diop said she was not afraid of the virus.

Rama Diop and Marie Marsaa wearing masks and holding each other in arms.
Travelers Rama Diop (left) and Marie Marsaa must change their Christmas plans.(ABC News: Rebecca Trigger)

“I had the vaccine so even though I’m HIV positive I don’t think I’m going to be too sick,” she said.

“I just hope there won’t be another lockdown.

Case triggers repeat vaccination and recall call

The Prime Minister reiterated his hope that the state will reach the opening date of February 5 without the spread of the virus.

“Perhaps this is the event that provides us with community spread of the virus, very sadly and very sadly,” he said.

“This is why I am telling everyone, please go and get your vaccine as soon as you can.”

This was echoed by Police Commissioner Chris Dawson, who said that while 100,000 people had now received a booster, another 165,000 were eligible and should get it as soon as possible.

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