COVID WA update: Premier Mark McGowan announces 24 new cases, included 17 in Bunbury outbreak

Briana Fiore and Josh ZimmermanThe West Australian
Premier Mark McGowan has given a COVID update after an outbreak at Albemarle's Kemerton plant.
Camera IconPremier Mark McGowan has given a COVID update after an outbreak at Albemarle's Kemerton plant. Credit: The West Australian

WA has recorded 24 new COVID cases overnight, with the virus now confirmed to have spread to the Wheatbelt.

Following the press conference, Premier Mark McGowan’s office sent out updated information which said there were now 17 positive cases in the Greater Bunbury cluster.

Of those, 13 were workers at Albemarle’s Kemerton Lithium Hydroxide Processing Plant - which sits 30km north east of Bunbury in an industrial park between Brunswick and Australind.

The four other positive cases were close contacts of the workers.

Mr McGowan said there had been 99 close or casual contacts identified, 73 have returned negative results.

One of the working areas affected within the 90-hectare site has since been shut down.

The remaining cases listed in Wednesday’s numbers were from Perth and include one mystery case, which is not linked to any known outbreak.

The Shire of Cunderdin, east of Northam, took to Facebook to confirm a positive test in the Wheatbelt community.

As a result, the region’s Australia Day Breakfast was cancelled.

“It is believed the risk is minimal however as the Shire we feel we have an increased responsibility to the community and do not wish to put anyone at risk,” the Shire of Cunderdin posted on Facebook.

“The timing of this is extremely unfortunate but not unexpected given the rapid spread of the Omicron variant throughout the Eastern States.”

Mr McGowan said he had not been informed about the situation in Cunderdin.

Premier Mark McGowan and Minister Paul Papalia during today’s COVID announcement.
Camera IconPremier Mark McGowan and Minister Paul Papalia during today’s COVID announcement. Credit: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

The Kemerton plant has not been listed as an exposure site by the WA Health Department.

Despite the outbreak, Mr McGowan said the site was an “important investment” for the State.

WA Health was asked to confirm whether the industrial site was an exposure site on Monday and Tuesday but refused to respond to questions from The West.

Albemarle did not answer questions from The West on Monday or Wednesday.

Mr McGowan has urged people to get tested and announced the Bunbury Testing clinic’s opening hours will be extended to 6pm tonight.

Albemarle's Kemerton plant.
Camera IconAlbemarle's Kemerton plant has recorded 16 COVID cases so far. Credit: Supplied

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union WA state secretary Steve McCartney slammed the handling of the outbreak and said other workers had been put at risk.

Mr McCartney claimed about 500 people worked at the plant and almost all of them were “completely in the dark” about whether they had been exposed to COVID.

“It’s been a bit of a disgrace to be perfectly honest, some people have been given some information while others have none,” he said.

Some of the exposure sites listed now include popular tourist destinations such as the Treendale Farm Hotel and Miami Bakehouse in Pinjarra.

WA has also reached 90 per cent double dose vaccinations for people over 12, something Mr McGowan called a terrific achievement.

Just 31 per cent of the population has received a third booster dose of the vaccine.

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