19 May 2020

Limited COVID-19 community transmission a good sign for WA

Western Australia is in the fortunate position of having very limited community transmission of COVID-19; far less than many other jurisdictions in the world or Australia.

WA Health Medical Lead of Personal Protective Equipment Dr Chris Blyth said Western Australia’s limited community transmission of COVID-19 made it far different to the environment in New York, Italy or other hard-hit communities seen on the nightly news.

“Assessing community transmission is not simply about the number of cases; it is determined by factoring in the number of cases for which we are unable to trace the source of the COVID-19 infection,” he said.

“While Western Australia is also fortunate to have relatively low case numbers, what is even more important is that 97 per cent of our COVID-19 cases have had a known source of exposure; the infections have been acquired overseas, on cruise ships or from recent contact with another confirmed case.

“Up to the 12 April, there were 526 cases reported in WA, with more 26,000 tests conducted.

“Since that time through 5 May, an additional 22,000 tests have detected just 25 more COVID-19 cases and the source of infection has been identified for every one of these cases.”

The Department of Health assesses the COVID-19 community transmission level on a daily basis and is ready to adjust our health advice if necessary.

Dr Blyth said the decision to change WA’s standing from ‘limited’ to ‘widespread’ community transmission would depend on an increase in the number of new cases for which no known exposure could be established.

“An increase in community transmission levels would follow a significant or sustained increase in new cases popping up from places we weren’t expecting,” Dr Blyth said.

“In this instance, public health efforts to control spread would be more likely to involve physical distancing measures in the community-at-large, in addition to contact tracing and contact quarantine.

“At the moment, our low case numbers, broad testing regime and stringent contact tracing are ensuring that everyone exposed to a known COVID-19 case is identified and taking appropriate precautions.”

Dr Blyth credited the Western Australian community for their willingness to embrace appropriate social distancing and infection prevention measures, and the State Government for closing our State’s borders to control the influx of cases.

“On the whole, Western Australians should be reassured that our State is in an enviable position when it comes to COVID-19,” Dr Blyth said.

Find out more about COVID-19.