Two travellers test positive to COVID-19 in Western Australia, amid warnings about outdated modelling – ABC News

January 13, 2022
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The Australian Medical Association is warning modelling done around the nation ahead of state borders coming down is outdated, due to the emergence of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
It comes as two people, who flew into Perth from Brisbane, tested positive to COVID-19 while in home isolation.
The pair, aged in their 30s, arrived on December 19 on flight VA470.
Four close household contacts, who were in the home where they were quarantining, have so far tested negative for COVID-19.
One further contact is awaiting test results and other contacts are being identified along with any potential further exposure sites.
Two exposure sites had been identified in Perth as of Tuesday afternoon:
Anyone who visited those sites at those times is urged to monitor for symptoms and get tested if they develop.
The exposure at the 7-Eleven store is understood to have occurred during what a spokeswoman for WA Health described as an "extremely brief" stop while out to get tested for COVID-19.
The spokeswoman said it was understood the exposure was for less than a minute and may have been to get petrol.
It was not yet clear if any directions had been breached.
Meanwhile, New South Wales recorded 3,057 new COVID cases on Tuesday, and Victoria was hit with 1,245.
Tasmania has reintroduced indoor mask-wearing and the ACT will do the same from Wednesday.
WA's borders remain closed, with the reopening date set for February, but those plans were also based off modelling linked to the Delta variant of COVID-19.
"Unfortunately, the differences that are apparent from Omicron means that all of our modelling is out of date," AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said.
"The original Doherty modelling is out of date, the modelling that most of our state governments have done themselves is out of date."
"And we just don't have the data to do new modelling yet."
It is now thought the peak in local cases after the border opens in WA will come much sooner.
WA president of the AMA Mark Duncan-Smith said Omicron had a much faster doubling rate than Delta.
"If necessary, we may need to have stricter controls when February the 5th comes around, hopefully to avoid lockdowns," he said.
With the Omicron variant spreading fast around the world and set to become the dominant COVID-19 strain in the UK, there is one question everyone wants to know.
"We now know that Omicron is three times as contagious, and it does evade vaccines to a larger degree than Delta."
Dr Khorshid is pushing for the Prime Minister and state and territory leaders to use Wednesday's emergency National Cabinet meeting to formulate a national plan for dealing with Omicron.
"These questions have all got to be answered but the key one is how many people are going to get sick? How many people are going to end up in hospital?" he said.
"And that's the question to which right now we just don't have the answer."
WA government modelling, published in November, forecast that at the peak of COVID-19 cases next year, there would be eight people in WA requiring intensive care at the same time.
The state currently has 111 intensive care beds, which could be increased to 316 ICU beds in the event of an outbreak.
WA Police Minister Paul Papalia said the state government was in the fortunate position of being able to closely watch the reopening experience of east coast states.
"I'd watch Tasmania in particular, they are almost identical to our situation, or they were prior to opening," he said.
"They have a G2G pass, they have the same criteria for entering their state as we do, and they had no community transmission prior to opening."
"What happens there might give you a lead as to what happens here."
Tasmania reopened on December 15 and now has 14 active cases of COVID-19
From Tuesday masks are again mandatory in all indoor venues in Tasmania except the home, leading to criticism from some in the hospitality industry.
But the AMA has backed mask-wearing as a "sensible move" and has instead lashed out at the "laissez-faire" approach of the NSW government to restrictions.
"The approach so far by the New South Wales government, in particular, is risking lives, is risking an extraordinary impact on the health system into next year and it just doesn't make sense," Dr Khorshid said.
West Australians have been told they will need to get used to living with COVID-19 once the border eventually comes down.
Epidemiologist Tony Blakely said the reopening experience in WA would be different for a number of reasons.
In many states people were already living with the virus and the border reopening coincided with an easing of restrictions.
But in WA there had been no internal restrictions for some time and no COVID-19 cases.
Professor Blakely predicted it would take only a few weeks for people in WA to get used to mask wearing and other measures again.
"It's kind of more or less like the anticipation at the moment is worse than the reality," he said.
Life will change dramatically when WA opens its borders to the rest of Australia and the world on February 5. Here's how. 
Professor Blakely said Omicron would likely be more dominant by February which would also shape the experience for WA.
"So far that is probably a better thing than Delta because it's less virulent, but it's also much more infectious," he said.
"It's going to be like grabbing a tiger by the tail when it first arrives and wrestling with it until you get control of it, but at least it's not as virulent as Delta."
The Premier had previously said the reopening date was locked in "unless there is an unforeseen emergency or new evidence that forces the health advice to change". 
See our full coverage of coronavirus
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