WA premier flags major COVID announcement

Michael Ramsey |

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has called a snap press conference amid speculation the February 5 border reopening could be pushed back.

The premier will front the media at 7.30pm Perth time on Thursday alongside Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson to make an “important announcement”.

Such press conferences have previously been used to announce lockdowns for Perth and the Peel region.

Mr McGowan has repeatedly ruled out future lockdowns ahead of his government’s border transition plan coming into effect from February 5.

But the lack of information released about the border reopening has raised serious questions about the government’s preparedness.

Mr McGowan is yet to outline community public health restrictions, close contact definitions, hospital surge protocols or school reopening plans.

He has also declined to release any modelling on the likely impact of the Omicron variant.

Australian Nursing Federation WA state secretary Mark Olson on Thursday said he would be “very surprised” if Mr McGowan proceeded with the February 5 reopening.

WA Health reported five new local COVID-19 cases on Thursday, including a person with no apparent connection to known clusters.

The infected person, identified overnight, has not been linked to any known cases and had been infectious in the community.

The other four cases were all contacts of previously reported cases. Two had been in quarantine and the others had been “potentially infectious” in the community.

“Contact tracers are now working with these cases to determine potential exposure sites and these will be uploaded to the HealthyWA website when confirmed,” WA Health said.

It comes after a man in his 60s tested positive upon attending the Fiona Stanley Hospital emergency department with non-COVID symptoms.

About a dozen staff have been identified as close contacts and ordered to quarantine for up to a fortnight.

Police believe the man, who is now in hotel quarantine, is linked to a cluster of Omicron cases centred around several Perth massage parlours.

As the February 5 border reopening draws nearer, key questions remain unanswered about the protocols that will come into effect.

WA Liberals leader David Honey on Thursday said schools and businesses needed to be able to plan for the expected surge in cases once the borders reopen.

“Our state government should have the modelling completed. (It) should be shared with the community,” he told reporters.

“They should have all of the protocols ready. The schools, hospitals, all of those other areas should be ready for that opening on February 5.”

WA has 79 active cases and a double-dose vaccination rate of 89 per cent for people aged 12 and over.