Western Australia could be forced to tear down its notorious hard border weeks early after an unvaccinated Frenchman with Covid slipped through the cracks.
Premier Mark McGowan locked out much of Australia for months in a stubborn zero-Covid strategy that made him popular at home and loathed everywhere else.
WA was finally due to open up at 90 per cent vaccination on February 5, but is now facing a potential outbreak that would make the point moot.
The French ‘backpacker’ arrived from Queensland on December 12 just an hour before WA shut its border to the Sunshine State at 12.01am.
He then proceeded to party at a series of bars and nightspots, staying out until 5am at Perth’s trendy clubs on Saturday night, subsequently forcing hundreds of close contacts into isolation.
The Frenchman partied at a series of bars and nightspots, staying out until 5am at Perth’s trendy clubs (Geisha Bar pictured, where he stayed until 3am) on Saturday night, subsequently forcing hundreds of close contacts into isolation.
Mr McGowan said the next four days would determine if WA had its first cases of community transmission since it locked down over just one case in June.
He immediately slapped an indoor mask mandate on Perth and Peel, closed nightclubs, banned dancing, and cancelled all large events.
The premier admitted he had no idea how the man got in, and questions have been raised about how the unvaccinated 25-year-old was able to board a plane.
But the explanation is fairly straightforward due to WA’s tiered system of Covid risk that Mr McGowan mercilessly wielded on travellers at a moment’s notice.
Queensland was at the time Covid-free and classed as a ‘very low risk’ area, meaning there were minimal border controls and no testing, quarantine, or vaccination requirement.
All travellers have to do is fill out a G2G pass form with personal information, and submit to a basic health screening at the airport or border.
The Frenchman arrived from Queensland on December 12 just an hour before WA shut its border to the Sunshine State at 12.01am. There were no entry requirements at the time
Mr McGowan’s government reportedly received legal advice that it would be unable to enforce proof of vaccination from states that were Covid-free.
Rules dramatically increase at ‘low risk’ with vaccination required along with 14-day self isolation on arrival.
After Queensland recorded a handful of Covid cases, Mr McGowan changed risk to ‘low’, but travellers had hours to make it in before having to isolate.
This unvaccinated young man, who arrived in Australia in January 2020, again just before the borders closed, was one of them.
For 11 days he was active in and around Perth, visiting two nightclubs on Saturday night where he partied on the dancefloor until the club closed at 5am.
He also went camping and visited markets, shops and a cinema before he felt ill enough to get swabbed on Wednesday and got his positive result on Thursday.
The man lives with four other people and his girlfriend and was tracked down on Thursday morning at an Airbnb and informed he was positive.
All five, who are unlike him vaccinated, tested negative with rapid antigen tests, but the girlfriend is showing symptoms and waiting on a PCR test.
WA immediately slapped an indoor mask mandate on Perth and Peel, closed nightclubs, banned dancing, and cancelled all large events
The infected backpacker hit two packed nightclubs in Perth’s entertainment district of Northbridge on December 19, partying on their dancefloors from midnight to 5am
The premier said ‘hundreds’ of people have already been contacted after potentially being exposed to the case, which experts believe is the Delta variant and not the highly-infectious Omicron strain.
Should enough of them become infected to trigger an outbreak, Mr McGowan admitted the Feburary 5 date could be brought forward, labelling hard borders as ‘redundant’ if cases are already circulating.
‘Obviously if we have community spread of the virus, then we will have to reconsider everything. How we reopen, when we reopen, all those sorts of things,’ he said.
‘The aim was to get to February 5 with over 90 per cent double dose vaccination of over-twelves, before such time as we opened the borders,’ the premier said.
‘But as I’ve said, it’s not easy to make it that far because something could happen.
‘And here we have a very unlikely event has occurred… someone came into Western Australia from Queensland, who was Covid positive, when Queensland had literally a handful of cases when he left that State.’
Exposure sites cover the Perth suburbs of Mirrabooka, Joondalup, Girrawheen, Perth CBD, Subiaco, Northbridge, and Scarborough
Western Australians will be forced to wear masks indoors and nightclubs closed after an unvaccinated Covid-infected French backpacker partied until 5am
Mr McGowan this week locked out the entire rest of the country unless they are exempt travellers, who must undergo testing and quarantine for two weeks.
Anyone from Victoria or NSW is completely banned, even for compassionate reasons, under the ‘extreme risk’ category.
Efforts to avoid a full-blown outbreak – and additional restrictions that could be brought in before Mr McGowan throws in the towel – are hampered by the infected man’s movements.
Authorities could not initially locate the Frenchman, who had left the city and was was camping with four friends when police were trying to contact him.
‘Early on, we couldn’t find the backpacker. We couldn’t find him. Didn’t know where he was. He got his test but he’d gone off and we obviously had to track him down and we couldn’t find the four campers,’ the premier said.
‘The four people that he was living with who were out camping. We couldn’t find them.’
Snap restrictions imposed across Perth and Peel from 6pm by Premier Mark McGowan will last four days despite there being only a handful of cases in the state
West Australian Premier Mark McGowan confirmed the case entered the state from Queensland after arriving from Europe
‘He is a backpacker who went out ant went to nightclubs, bars, museums, restaurants, and it is in the hundreds. That’s why we are so concerned,’ the premier told reporters.
‘He has been to events where there has been lots of dancing, lots of fun, lots of interaction by lots of people in close proximity. That’s why we are concerned about it.
‘Some people are saying we are go took far in our reaction to this because it is one case, but the venues he has been to and the length of time he has been infectious means we have to take these steps.’
Exposure sites cover the Perth suburbs of Mirrabooka, Joondalup, Girrawheen, Perth CBD, Subiaco, Northbridge, and Scarborough.
He visited the WA Museum on December 16 then hit the Scarborough Sunset Markets and Galway Hooker pub.
The next day he saw a film at Palace Cinema in Raine Square and got a taste of home by dining at Bloody French in Subiaco.
Snap restrictions imposed across Perth and Peel from 6pm by Premier Mark McGowan will last four days despite there being only a handful of cases in the state.
Masks must be worn indoors at all times unless in a home or during vigorous exercise, and are recommended outside when social distancing isn’t possible.
High risk, large public events like music festivals will be cancelled and all nightclubs closed. All dancing will be banned, except for weddings.
Masks must be worn indoors at all times unless in a home or during vigorous exercise, and are recommended outside when social distancing isn’t possible
The Geisha Bar in Northbridge, WA (pictured) has confirmed it has been classified as an exposure site between 12am and 3am on Sunday morning
WA now has three local cases including two people who also arrived from Queensland just before the border closed. More are expected.
The Geisha Bar in Northbridge has confirmed it has been classified as an exposure site between 12am and 3am on Sunday.
‘We are working with WA Health to provide all contact registers and we are waiting on further instructions,’ the venue posted on Facebook on Thursday.
A screenshot circulating on social media showed a text message sent by WA Health instructing attendees to get tested and isolate until a negative result is returned.
Perth’s top gay nightclub Connections was exposed from 3am to 5am, when it closes, after the Frenchman moved on from Geisha.
Mr McGowan said health officials highly recommended mask be worn at all times, both indoors and outdoors, and all sporting events and musical festivals would be cancelled until at least Tuesday.
WA now has three local cases including two people who also arrived from Queensland just before the border closed. More are expected
‘We now need to face the potential of community transmission in Perth and Peel,’ he said.
‘That is why I am asking everyone to please do the right thing over this period.
‘If you’ve been to any of the exposure sites or if you’re feeling unwell, it’s important to get tested.
‘Clinics are in the process of being ramped up, and they will stay open tonight until 10pm.’
WA has not had cases of community transmission since June and the State border was due to reopen with the rest of Australia on February 5.
On Wednesday, Premier Mark McGowan said he would not lock down Perth if Covid cases were detected before February 5.
Instead, he said the government would consider imposing other restrictions to slow any outbreak, such as face masks indoors.