Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan faces increasing criticism over his handling of Covid as the state remains isolated from the rest of Australia and its citizens endure the country’s toughest health orders.
Today McGowan has released what has been dubbed a ‘Covid Army’ also referred to as a ‘surveillance’ operation on Covid conducted by researchers.
Their job is to go door-to-door in Perth over the weekend to conduct random Covid testing on people who do not have symptoms to see if the Omicron variant is going unnoticed within the wider community.
“And we know some people don’t have symptoms and some people don’t have enough symptoms to go and get tested and we really want to know how many infections are out there at the moment,” said Professor Nick Golding from Telethon Kids Institute and Curtain University.
To put Western Australia in perspective, New South Wales has dropped almost all Covid restrictions, including mask-wearing (except on public transport), despite having 186,740 active cases.
McGowan’s Covid Army wants to test 1,600 people over two weekends as part of a collaborative effort with Curtin University and Telethon Kids. The process involves taking saliva samples from random participants before processing them using a brand new technology that has not been cleared by the Therapeutic Goods and Drugs Administration. Loop Mediated Isothermal Amplification or LAMP is designed for screening only and has to be confirmed with a standard PCR testing.
Many Western Australians have taken to social media to express their reservation and anger at the idea of government officials knocking on their door to perform (voluntary) tests.
Covid has only recently started to make its way through Western Australia as the highly transmissible Omicron strain escaped quarantine. In total, six people have died, including the recent death of a woman in her 80s who was receiving palliative care.
McGowan kept the Western Australian border closed for 697 days.