Mark McGowan press conference: No new WA COVID cases amid testing blitz sparked by FIFO worker

Headshot of Peter Law
Peter LawThe West Australian
Email Peter Law
VideoQantas cancels flights after FIFO COVID scare

WA has recorded no new local COVID-19 cases overnight after a Perth FIFO worker’s close contacts returned negative results.

In addition to the Greenwood man’s girlfriend, his housemate and three very close work colleagues also tested negative.

The encouraging results are another sign that Perth has dodged being plunged back into lockdown by the “unusual” incident.

Mark McGowan said 83 close contacts of the man had been identified — the majority of which were at Fortescue’s Cloudbreak iron ore mine site in the Pilbara.

All of the close contacts are required to get tested and isolate for 14 days. There’s another 554 casual contacts, with test results expected to start to return later on Thursday.

More than 7000 people were tested yesterday, with West Australians encouraged to keep checking the list of public exposure sites.

On Wednesday, it was announced the FIFO worker, a maintenance contractor aged in his 30s, was at Perth Airport to fly out to Cloudbreak for a week on the morning of July 20 — at the same time as another man who three days earlier had been denied entry into WA after arriving from Queensland.

The Queensland traveller had returned from the Philippines and completed two weeks of hotel quarantine in the Sunshine State, testing negative three times before being released and boarding a flight to Perth on July 17.

He was denied entry into WA and spent two days isolating in a Perth hotel before being placed on a return flight to Brisbane on July 20.

He subsequently tested positive to COVID-19 on July 26 — which prompted WA Health to last week list Perth Airport Terminal 3 and 4 as a potential exposure site.

Authorities believe the West Australian likely picked up the virus from the Queensland man.

CCTV showed the FIFO worker walking past the masked Queensland traveller at Perth Airport. This was the only known interaction between the pair.

“It’s a very, very confusing and odd case because of all the circumstances involved,” Mr McGowan said.

“As soon as we were advised yesterday …. that there was a prospect he was positive sometime after July 20 we assembled facts and advised the public.”

The FIFO worker spent a week at Cloudbreak, returning to Perth on July 27 and then visiting three pubs for multiple hours over four days: Fremantle’s Old Faithful Bar and BBQ (July 28), the Indian Ocean Hotel in Scarborough (July 29) and the Subiaco Hotel (July 31).

He also visited the Greenwood Village Shopping Centre — including Coles, Bakers Delight and Lewis Meats, MRKT SPACE in Fremantle, the Southbank Day Surgery and PathWest waiting room at Fremantle Hospital.

Visitors to any of those locations at the same time as the FIFO worker — as well as anyone at Cloudbreak between July 20 and 27 — must be tested immediately and quarantine until they return a negative result.

Anyone at Cloudbreak between July 20 and 27 must be tested immediately and quarantine until they return a negative result.
Camera IconAnyone at Cloudbreak between July 20 and 27 must be tested immediately and quarantine until they return a negative result.

The man has not displayed any symptoms and only returned the positive swab this week as part of FMG’s routine testing program for FIFO workers. He then subsequently tested negative and is currently in isolation awaiting the results of another swab.

Further complicating the case is the fact the man previously contracted and recovered from COVID-19 in March of last year — making him perhaps the unluckiest tradie in Australia but also raising the prospect the weak positive was the result of “shedding” of the virus.

Health Minister Roger Cook said COVID-19 vaccination appointments appointment slots were still available for WA’s “two-week blitz”.

Earlier, NSW reported 262 new local cases, a new record high for the outbreak, and another five deaths – three in their 60s, a man in his 70s and a woman in her 80s.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian also announced the Hunter region would enter a one-week lockdown after COVID-19 cases were revealed in the area.

The Premier said he was reluctant to offer the NSW Government advice about how to manage Sydney’s worsening outbreak because “they don’t listen”.

“When we advised them to lockdown the entirety of Sydney they didn’t do it. So now they’re in the situation they’re in,” he said.

Meanwhile, the State Government announced the outcomes of last week’s Skills Summit, headlined by a $4 million advertising to attract interstate workers to relocate to WA.

“We’ll work out the details and obviously we have to work through, as well, in relation to the situation in NSW, but I’m sure we’ll be able to do that in a COVID-safe way,” he said.

“What we find is very appealing to people over east is the price of houses here is significantly less than the cost of houses in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and therefore it’s a big incentive, particularly because there’s often quite well paying jobs here.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails