WA expands contact tracing efforts

More Western Australian businesses and premises will be required to maintain contact registers to further strengthen WA’s contact tracing capabilities, the Premier announced today. 

Premier Mark McGowan said contact tracing was one of the most effective measures in controlling the spread of COVID-19.

With new, more infectious strains of COVID-19 occurring around the world, and cases of the highly infectious variant strains already entering WA’s hotel quarantine system, these changes are essential, he said.

From Friday, February 12, the following WA business premises will be required to keep a contact register for the purpose of Department of Health COVID-19 contact tracing:

  • – retail venues (including supermarkets, department stores, shopping centres, pharmacies, hardware and department stores) and retail components of other businesses where customers are physically present such as bank branches;
  • – commercial buses or vessels that can carry 12 or more people where different groups of people interact (party buses, wine and food tour buses, hop on/hop off tour buses, sightseeing tours, party/function boats, sightseeing/tour boats, private charter buses/boats);
  • public and private hospitals (visitors only – persons visiting patients, or attending meetings/lectures, couriers, and contractors);
  • takeaway food and beverage services;
  • – events with a COVID Event Plan (500+ patrons), and certain outdoor functions and gatherings under 500 people (e.g. weddings, corporate functions, fetes, festivals). 

Currently, only the following businesses have been required to have a contact register since December 5: 

  • – food and licenced venues (restaurants, cafés, bars, pubs, taverns, nightclubs);
  • – gyms, indoor sporting centres, wellness centres, health clubs and fitness centres;
  • – indoor play centres;
  • – saunas and bathhouses; 
  • – swimming pools, both indoors and outdoors that are open to or used by the public;
  • – places of worship and funeral parlours;
  • – beauty and personal care services including hairdressers, barbers, nail salons, tattoo parlours, spa and massage parlours;
  • – galleries and museums;
  • – indoor and outdoor cinemas and drive in movie theatres, theatres, casinos, gaming or gambling venues and any other entertainment venue;
  • – auction houses and real estate open houses (including display homes and rental properties);
  • – indoor community facilities, libraries and halls;
  • – zoos, wildlife parks and amusement parks;
  • – function centres; 
  • – hotels, motels, campgrounds or other accommodation facilities that ordinarily have check-in arrangements;
  • – boarding schools or residential colleges (not including residents); and 
  • – adult entertainment premises (strip clubs, brothels and sex on premises venues). 

Premier McGowan said the expansion followed a review of WA’s contact register system which had been in place since December 5, 2020 as a precautionary measure. 

“We are in a fortunate position in WA, and it’s important we support WA businesses to continue to operate in a COVID-safe way to keep our economy strong,” the Premier said.

“This means staying the course, following the health advice and keeping up COVID-safe principles.

“When contact registers were implemented in WA in December last year, we said regular reviews would be undertaken and new measures would be introduced as needed. 

“So far West Aussies have done an incredible job in adapting to those changes but we now need to strengthen them, especially in the face of the evolving nature of the virus overseas. 

“While WA remains free of community transmission, we continue to learn from what’s occurring over east and overseas. With variant strains becoming more prevalent, we need to bolster our processes in case contact tracing is required by our WA health and response teams.”

He said that in other jurisdictions in Australia, substantial outbreaks of COVID-19 cases have been linked to businesses such retail outlets and takeaway venues.

“Additionally, hospital visitors can currently attend unannounced and anonymously which in the event that contact tracing was required would be difficult and challenging, therefore the expansion will also stipulate that all hospitals, public and private, will be required to maintain a contact register system,” said Health Minister, Roger Cook. 

In addition, from Friday, February 12, any businesses already using their own QR code for registration will be required to also clearly display the WA Government’s SafeWA QR code. 

“As we have learnt from outbreaks in other jurisdictions, effective contact tracing is one of the best ways to control the spread of COVID-19,” Minister Cook said.

“We all have a community responsibility to keep one another safe. 

“Local authorities including health environment officers are able to enforce these laws, with penalties just like they do with food and safety regulations at businesses, however Western Australians are encouraged to do the right thing and apply this measure as they would with other COVID-safe practices. 

“Using SafeWA is the easiest and safest way for venues to collect this information and to give patrons the protection they deserve. 

“Cases of the highly infectious strain of COVID-19 in hotel quarantine across Australia highlight how important it is that we continue reviewing and improving WA’s COVID-safe and precautionary procedures.”

SafeWA is the WA Government’s free contact register app, which offers a secure and efficient way to check-in via a QR code. Information obtained through this app goes directly to WA Health, and is securely stored for 28 days, unless it is needed for contact tracing purposes. 

More than 1.1 million Western Australians and 32,000 businesses have already downloaded SafeWA, and there have been more than 20 million check-ins with the app since its launch last month. 

Industry engagement will be conducted with stakeholders over the next two weeks to ensure these expanded measures are implemented smoothly.

Public transport users are encouraged to register their SmartRider card to ensure their contact details are available if needed. People are also encouraged to tag on and off Free Transit Zone bus services with their SmartRider. People who have registered should ensure they check their details are up-to-date. Passengers using Central Area Transit (CAT) buses are also encouraged to use the SafeWA QR code, which will be available in coming weeks.

SafeWA can be downloaded from Apple App Store or Google Play Store and more information can be found at https://www.wa.gov.au/SafeWA

Failing to comply with these new requirements could result in penalties of up to $50,000 for an individual and $250,000 for a body corporate, or 12 months’ imprisonment.