COVID-19 in WA: masks come off, but WA remains on guard for Omicron

The mask worn indoors in public was discarded – at least for the next four weeks – after WA recorded no new locally acquired cases on Friday and despite confirmation, a second quarantine hotel guard was infected by the wildly transmissible Omicron variant.

The Hyatt Regency guard passed Omicron to her partner, who works in a “small doctor’s office,” but acting Prime Minister Roger Cook said she spent “little time” in the community while she was in the community. ‘she was potentially infectious.

The woman is the first reported case of local transmission of the Omicron strain in WA.

On Friday evening, the Department of Health reported that a “majority” of 23 close contacts identified for the pair had returned negative PCR tests.

Camera iconThe Hyatt Regency Hotel, East Perth. Credit: Nicolas ellis/WA News

An exact figure was not provided, but the ministry said all of the guard’s and his partner’s co-workers were cleared.

No further spread has been recorded either in the Delta backpacker group – which remains at 21 cases – or in a Pan Pacific security officer also diagnosed with Omicron earlier this week.

Mr Cook warned Western Australians they should expect to “continue to see some cases appearing over the next few days” related to the backpacker group among contacts already in quarantine.

But with both this outbreak and the infections linked to security officers seemingly contained, Mr Cook said health officials were confident the mask-wearing mandate could be relaxed from 6 p.m. Friday as scheduled.

“What all of this suggests is that at the moment we are aware of the situation and can be confident in our next step,” he said.

“In the future, masks will only be required in vulnerable settings such as hospitals, care facilities for the elderly and people with disabilities, as well as in public transport, taxis and carpooling vehicles.”

Proof of vaccination will also be required for entry to nightclubs, the Crown Casino, major events and any licensed venue with a capacity of over 500 people or open after midnight.

Roger Cook.
Camera iconRoger Cook. Credit: Iain Gillespie/West Australian

Mr Cook said investigations were continuing into how the Hyatt worker became infected with COVID.

“This security guard in particular had a concierge role in the lobby rather than (being) a static guard on the hotel floor,” he said.

“But at this point, there is nothing to suggest that the keeper has done anything wrong.”

Chief health officer Andy Robertson said the man wore personal protective equipment at all times, but his “crowd control type role” meant moving around the hotel and had some degree of interaction with quarantined clients.

He said the man’s work had not put him in contact with members of the public visiting the Hyatt Regency.

Six more infections were recorded among returning interstate and foreign travelers on Friday.

Beginning Saturday, travelers from all jurisdictions except the Northern Territory who are granted an exemption to enter Washington state must complete 14 days of supervised hotel quarantine at their own expense.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Andy Robertson.
Camera iconChief Medical Officer of Health Andy Robertson. Credit: Iain Gillespie/West Australian

In response to the growing number of quarantine hotel arrivals putting pressure on the system, Mr Cook announced that doubly vaccinated travelers would now be released from the facilities on day 12 and required to complete their last two days of isolation “in another suitable room “.

“We have taken a sensible approach to help minimize the risk of transmission in our hotels,” he said, adding that the quarantine facility specially designed by the Commonwealth government had not yet opened.

Returning travelers will continue to be PCR tested on days one, five and 11 and will only be released from hotel quarantine in home isolation if all results are negative.

Mr Cook said a single infection in a traveler returning to WA was detected during a 13-day test.

“It will also allow the use of the G2G Now app so that the police can monitor them remotely and make sure they stay in place,” Cook said.

“This will slightly reduce the burden on our quarantine system without any risk to public health.” “

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Friday that the start of the school year would be postponed for two weeks to prevent students from returning to class as the wave of infections in Omicron in her state is expected to peak.

Mr Cook said delaying the start of the school year in WA – which is scheduled to start Jan.31, five days before the border reopens – was “not part of our thinking at this point.”

More than 30,000 vaccines were given for a third day in a row Thursday, including more than 22,000 booster shots – although Mr Cook said the third jab rate among native West Australians remained “devilishly low”.

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