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Western Australia’s backpacker Covid cluster grows after super-spreader dance party

Western Australia has detected two new local COVID-19 cases linked to an infected French backpacker who travelled from Queensland.

The new cases are close contacts of another recent infection and are in hotel quarantine, WA Health said on Saturday.

This takes the total number of cases linked to the so-called ‘backpacker outbreak’ to 16, and includes the unvaccinated 25-year-old index case. 

The development comes as Perth’s Covid restrictions, including mask mandates, are set to be lifted on January 4.

Many of the cases went to a busy Perth Mess Hall dance party with about 400 other people on December 19

Many of the cases went to a busy Perth Mess Hall dance party with about 400 other people on December 19, many from the traveller community.

More than 770 close contacts have been identified, with 18 yet to be tested as police struggle to track down some backpackers who are thought to have left WA or are avoiding testing.

One new infection among returned travellers has also been identified.

They are in hotel quarantine.

Meanwhile, WA has moved both Tasmania, which jumped from 520 active COVID-19 cases to 938 on New Year’s Day, and the ACT, which increased by 448 cases to a total of 1479, from medium risk to high risk.

This means that, from Monday, anyone entering the state from the ACT or Tasmania must be fully vaccinated, take a PCR test within 24 hours of arrival and take another test on day 12 of their 14-day self-isolation.

They must also use the G2G Now app while in quarantine.

More than 92 per cent of Western Australians had received their first COVID-19 vaccination, Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said.

There are now 35 active confirmed cases in WA.

More than 770 close contacts have been identified stemming from the dance party (pictured)

More than 770 close contacts have been identified stemming from the dance party (pictured)

 

‘Thanks government!’ Hostel full of 93 backpackers spend Christmas in a luxurious five-star hotel as they’re put into quarantine after they were exposed to Covid by an unvaccinated Frenchman who sparked Perth’s outbreak

BY PADRAIG COLLINS FOR DAILY MAIL AUSTRLALIA 

Going from a 12-person dormitory room to a five-star hotel is what every backpacker dreams of – and it has come true for 93 of them in Western Australia. 

The one problem is, they’ve been moved up in the accommodation world to Perth’s Westin hotel because they may all be infected with Covid-19.

They are not allowed to leave their rooms and when one walked down the corridor to complain about the room service, he was arrested. 

Backpackers, such as the woman pictured, were moved from a hostel to a five-star hotel to quarantine after a Covid-19 outbreak

Backpackers, such as the woman pictured, were moved from a hostel to a five-star hotel to quarantine after a Covid-19 outbreak

Some of the backpackers (pictured) seemed to prefer to stay in the Old Fire Station hostel rather than moved to the five-star Westin hotel for quarantine

Some of the backpackers (pictured) seemed to prefer to stay in the Old Fire Station hostel rather than moved to the five-star Westin hotel for quarantine

Another couple wrote ‘thanks government’ on social media to celebrate their upgraded accommodation, despite not being able to leave it.

After their previous digs at Fremantle’s Old Fire Station hostel became a Covid hotspot in Perth’s coronavirus outbreak, the group of 93 was taken to the Westin in Perth’s CBD to quarantine on Christmas Eve.

About 100 people staying at the Old Fire Station were at the Perth Mess Hall on December 19, where an unvaccinated French backpacker dined during 11 days he was active in Perth while infected.

At least 16 people have since tested positive for Covid from that event, including one backpacker.

A close contact of an unvaccinated 25-year-old infectious French backpacker – who sparked the latest Perth outbreak – stayed at the Fremantle hostel. 

Backpackers (pictured), some of whom were shirtless and maskless, partied on a bus taking them to luxurious hotel quarantine in Perth

Backpackers (pictured), some of whom were shirtless and maskless, partied on a bus taking them to luxurious hotel quarantine in Perth

Some of the backpackers held a ‘lockdown Christmas party’ before they were taken by bus to the Westin.

Chalk messages on the ground of the Old Fire Station demanded authorities ‘let us stay’, and shared on social media accounts. 

Other social media postings included videos of the backpackers drinking and dancing as police and WA Health made preparations outside to transport them, some going maskless and shirtless.

They kept the party going on the buses to the hotel. One backpacker wrote ‘Covid, you won’t stop us dancing’ in a video from inside the bus.

Going from a 12-person dormitory room to a five-star hotel (pictured) is what every backpacker dreams of - and it has come true for 93 of them in Western Australia

Going from a 12-person dormitory room to a five-star hotel (pictured) is what every backpacker dreams of – and it has come true for 93 of them in Western Australia

Western Australia recorded two new Covid infections on Christmas day. Both are linked to the Perth Mess Hall event and are in hotel quarantine. 

The Old Fire Station hostel’s owners said their cleaning team is in isolation and they had no help from WA Health after their guests were taken away on Friday night.

‘It’s like we’ve been hit by a bomb,’ they told The West Australian. ‘[The government] has completely walked away from the whole thing.’ 

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