Another two healthcare workers in Halls Creek have tested positive for COVID-19, but the WA Government is confident no Indigenous patients have been exposed to the virus.
- WA new cases of COVID-19 remain low, with 14 reported overnight
- But cases continue to be reported in the remote Kimberley region
- Cruise ships continue to make up a large proportion of WA cases
The latest Halls Creek cases mean there are now 17 confirmed coronavirus cases in the Kimberley, a situation that has been a substantial concern for health authorities given the vulnerability of the population in this region.
The Government has been desperate to avoid COVID-19 transmission through Aboriginal communities, fearing the Indigenous population is particularly vulnerable to the virus.
But WA’s increase in overall case numbers remains low, with another 14 confirmed infections overnight taking the state’s tally to 495.
WA’s COVID-19 death toll remains at six.
Health Minister Roger Cook said the continued slow pace of infections was encouraging.
But Mr Cook played down the prospect of the low case numbers resulting in an easing of social restrictions leading into the Easter long weekend.
“Let’s just see a sustained period of low numbers,” he said.
“Then we can look at what the opportunities and challenges that presents us are.”
The latest Halls Creek infections mean four healthcare workers in that community have been confirmed as coronavirus cases.
The two new cases were already in self-isolation and were close contacts of those previously infected, Mr Cook said.
“We are very confident we have no Aboriginal patients or members of the community exposed to those workers,” he said.
“We are keeping a very close eye on that.”
A nursing team was flown to the Kimberley last week to provide extra support, with significant numbers of healthcare workers in the region being required to isolate.
The initial outbreak there saw even more drastic travel restrictions enacted for the Kimberley compared to those enforced in the rest of WA, with non-essential movement between local government areas prohibited.
Cruise ships remain a focus of infections
Four of WA’s new cases come from the Artania cruise ship, which has been responsible for dozens of infected patients being treated in Perth hotels or hospitals.
Another 13 crew members were taken off that vessel yesterday, but more than 400 foreign citizens remain on board.
Overall, cruise ships are responsible for 37 per cent of WA’s COVID-19 infections.
Six cruise ships are currently in or near WA waters and Premier Mark McGowan repeated his message to them to not attempt to dock at any of the state’s ports.
The Radiance of the Seas is close to Cape Leeuwin and five other cruise ships are tracking across the Great Australian Bight.
Mr McGowan said the ships had a total of 6,000 crew on board and he said they should not try to dock at Fremantle, Bunbury or Geraldton ports.
Another cruise ship, The World, which had previously been anchored off Fremantle and has no passengers on board, is now off Geraldton.
The World is believed to be the largest private residential ship on the planet.
Mr McGowan said it was “doing laps” in open waters but “we don’t know why”.
“We essentially have a very strong message to all of the cruise ships. They should keep going,” Mr McGowan said.
“That is the Commonwealth’s message. We are at one with the Commonwealth. There’s no requirement for them to come into Fremantle or Western Australia, and frankly they’re not wanted.”
More people eligible for COVID testing
Testing criteria in WA have been substantially broadened from this morning, with anyone who has had a fever within the past few days or who currently has respiratory symptoms urged to be checked.
That includes anyone with a cough, shortness of breath or sore throat.
Previously, strict criteria governed whether someone was eligible to be tested — with hundreds turned away from the state’s COVID clinics in the past few weeks.
Mr Cook said between 30 and 40 people attended the Fiona Stanley Hospital clinic by 10:00am today, compared to 45 for all of yesterday.
“We expected a rush this morning,” he said.
“Expanding the testing criteria ensures we will have a good line of sight and will provide us with extra confidence.”
The state has also launched a new $450,000 mental health campaign, encouraging people to remain connected and active while social restrictions continue.
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