COVID-19 in WA: Perth grand final to go ahead despite new COVID case

Josh Zimmerman & Peter LawThe West Australian
VideoThe AFL grand final will proceed as planned, despite Premier Mark McGowan revealing a startling new COVID case on Friday.

A second COVID scare in three days will not prevent what Mark McGowan described as a “marvellous exciting, historic” AFL grand final from going ahead as planned tomorrow.

The State’s latest close shave involved a WA woman permitted to board a flight west from Sydney on Tuesday despite failing to obtain a G2G pass.

The woman was intercepted at the airport by police, swabbed for COVID-19 and escorted directly to hotel quarantine.

The test came back positive overnight but Mr McGowan said “the systems have worked” and Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson had advised there was “no cause for concern”.

“Given her positive COVID result, you can see why there are border controls in place as the virus rages in Victoria and New South Wales,” Mr McGowan said.

There were 15 people on the same Sydney to Perth flight, all of whom wore masks, are in hotel quarantine and have already returned negative tests.

Two police officers who interacted with the woman at the airport — wearing full PPE — have been deemed casual contacts are still awaiting test results.

The woman’s G2G application had been rejected on four occasions and Mr McGowan said he did not understand why Virgin had allowed her to board the flight.

It is the second time COVID has threatened to derail the grand final this week after a Sydney truck driver who spent two days in WA last week tested positive after he returned to NSW.

Mr McGowan said 47 contacts had now been identified for the truck driver, 31 of whom had so far tested negative.

The latest truckie incursion has prompted a strengthening of border protocols for the freight industry, with the Premier announcing vaccination would next month become compulsory for all transport workers seeking to enter WA from high and extreme risk jurisdictions.

The new regime begins October 24, when truck and train drivers seeking to enter WA from high or extreme risk States must have received at least a first jab.

That will be upgraded to a requirement for full vaccination from Christmas Day.

Mr McGowan said the “ramping up” in precautions came on top of existing protocols for truck drivers that include a weekly testing regime, wearing face masks at all times in public and submitting to a rapid antigen test at the WA border if proof of a negative PCR test in the past three days could not be produced.

The Premier also announced Victoria — which recorded 733 new cases yesterday — would be upgraded to an extreme risk jurisdiction on Wednesday, spelling an end to travel for compassionate reasons.

It comes after the 14-day rolling average of new infections exceeded 500 earlier this week, triggering a review by Dr Robertson.

Mr McGowan urged any West Australian in Victoria hoping to return home to do so immediately.

“If you are in Victoria with an approved G2G pass and want to return to WA you need to do it now before the border changes come into effect on Wednesday — that gives people more than four days to get home,” the Premier said.

More than 3700 people on 29 domestic flights arrived in Perth yesterday from COVID-free South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory ahead of the grand final — and 1700 more are expected today.

Mr McGowan described the season decider between the Melbourne Demons and Western Bulldogs as an “historic, exciting, wonderful event for our State”.

“We’re holding the AFL grand final, let’s be positive. I think this is a great opportunity for our State and I think we should talk it up,” he said.

With WA’s first jab rate continuing to trail the rest of the nation at 63.6 per cent, Vaccine Commander Chris Dawson tempered the celebratory atmosphere with a warning.

“I'm appealing yet again to the community to go and get vaccinated,” he said.

“We cannot realistically expect to maintain our lifestyle, what we're enjoying at the moment with this very tight border control we've got, and then not get vaccinated. It goes hand in glove.”

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