New Measures as Western Australia Enters 'High COVID Caseload'

New Measures as Western Australia Enters 'High COVID Caseload'
A man wearing a mask walks along the foreshore in Perth, Australia on Jun. 29, 2021. (Photo by TREVOR COLLENS/AFP via Getty Images)
Daniel Khmelev

The Western Australia (WA) government has entered its next phase of the pandemic and unlocked new measures that had been drawn up in preparation for when the state reached a high COVID-19 caseload environment.

Cases in WA have continued to climb, with the government pulling the trigger on Feb. 7 as the state records 265 active cases.

"Western Australia is about to embark on its most challenging phase of the pandemic," WA Premier Mark McGowan said.

From Feb. 8, anybody deemed a close contact will be required to self-isolate for at least seven days, even if the person is asymptomatic.

The definition for close contact will also be changed and will be defined as:
  • A household member of a person with COVID-19 who has had contact with them during their infectious period
  • Someone who had close personal interaction with a COVID-positive person during their infectious period, such as:
    • Had at least 15 minutes of face-to-face contact where a mask was not worn by either party
    • Greater than two hours in a small room where masks had been removed
    • Someone who is told by the WA Department of Health that they are a close contact
These measures will apply to schools, meaning entire classrooms will be sent home if one student in the classroom tests positive—regardless of whether the other students are asymptomatic—exacerbating fears of a disrupted education for students in 2022.

Those with symptoms are required to get a PCR test if available, or a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) otherwise. Reporting of positive RAT results is now mandatory.

Quarantine for approved international and interstate travellers will also be reduced to seven days, with the weekly international arrivals cap into the state doubled to 530. Vaccinated direct international travellers are permitted to self-quarantine at a suitable premise for 7 days, or 14 days in a hotel if the traveller is unvaccinated.

McGowan warned the state's residents of the onset of new disruptions and took the opportunity to encourage the state's booster shot roll out.

"For two years WA has avoided the worst of the pandemic, but as Omicron begins to spread in our community, it will cause problems and disrupt our unique way of life," McGowan said.

WA Premier Mark McGowan speaks to media at Dumas House in Perth, Australia on Apr. 23, 2021. (Matt Jelonek/Getty Images)
WA Premier Mark McGowan speaks to media at Dumas House in Perth, Australia on Apr. 23, 2021. (Matt Jelonek/Getty Images)

"It's so important we continue to drive up third dose vaccinations, to help prevent the loss of life and try to minimise the disruption Omicron will cause in our community and economy."

"Unfortunately, these new protocols are not a sign of the pandemic ending - they signify the real impact of Omicron beginning in Western Australia," he said.

"Like always, together Western Australians will get through this—by following the health advice and benefiting from high levels of vaccination."

It comes after efforts from the WA government to shield West Australians from Omicron, which includes keeping interstate borders sealed, with last month seeing an explosion in cases over at Australia's east coast.

The state has reached a 44 percent vaccination rate in its 16-and-over population, with McGowan earlier suggesting the state would need to reach 80 to 90 percent before borders reopened.

However, while cases in WA have only started to rise, cases in all other states have passed their peak and are on a steady decline.

The country has also begun making preparations to open international borders to the fully vaccinated at the end of February.