Coronavirus crisis: Zero new WA cases of COVID-19 recorded amid Geraldton hospital scare

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Josh ZimmermanThe West Australian
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Geraldton residents can breathe a little easier after the Health Department reported no new COVID-19 cases had been diagnosed in WA overnight.

More than 50 staff, patients and visitors at the Geraldton Health Campus are being treated as casual contacts of a virus-infected seafarer from the MV Emerald Indah who spent three hours in the hospital’s emergency department on Sunday evening.

A decision by WA Country Health Service not to require those people — 25 staff, 18 patients and eight visitors — to isolate until receiving a negative test result was reversed yesterday morning after they had already spent three days in the community.

In past WA outbreaks, people identified as casual contacts have been asked to self-isolate until returning a negative test.

All interstate travellers from “low-risk” jurisdictions — where there has been a small amount of community spread of the virus in the past 28 days — are also required to self-isolate for 14 days when arriving in WA and get tested on day 11.

Announcing the backflip, Premier Mark McGowan said the risk posed by the casual contacts was “miniscule” but the reversal came out of an “abundance of caution”.

The Health Department was last night waiting for the first of those swabs.

Asked why casual contacts of the crewman had not been immediately tested and forced to self-quarantine while waiting for the results, a Health Department spokesperson said: “The national guidelines for the public health management of COVID-19 do not require casual contacts to isolate awaiting a negative result or to undergo asymptomatic testing”

“WA Health have required casual contacts to be managed at a level above the national guidelines including testing and isolation prior to receiving a negative result when appropriate.

“Casual contacts from Geraldton Hospital are now being asked to isolate until they have a negative result.

Geraldton Health Campus.
Camera IconGeraldton Health Campus. Credit: The Geraldton Guardian

“For some staff, the result is expected shortly and isolation may not be required given to the short time period involved until they receive their result.”

A hospital staffer who was not wearing PPE when they entered a lift shortly after the crewman exited from it and immediately self-report the incident was declared a close contact and has been in isolation since Monday.

MV Emerald Indah is Indonesia-bound.
Camera IconMV Emerald Indah is Indonesia-bound. Credit: Ian Munro/The West Australian

Their test result was also pending last night and they will be required to remain in self-quarantine for a fortnight.

Genomic sequencing has now confirmed the seafarer — a man in his 50s who Mr McGowan yesterday said was in intensive care — has the super-infectious Delta variant.

In addition to the crewman, there are another 10 active COVID cases in WA: six linked to the northern suburbs cluster and four among returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

A total of 11,211 rolled up their sleeves to receive vaccinations yesterday, including 4624 second doses.

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