HomeWA border: Restrictions to lift under Mark McGowan reopening plan

WA border: Restrictions to lift under Mark McGowan reopening plan

WA Premier Mark McGowan has been blasted for setting what some say is an unrealistic vaccination target to reopen the state.

WA Premier Mark McGowan has been blasted for setting what some say is an unrealistic vaccination target to reopen the state.

Mr McGowan revealed today that the state’s borders would remain closed until 90 per cent of over-12s are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, which he said was projected to occur in January or February.

A reporter put it to the Premier that some experts don’t believe 90 per cent is achievable.

Currently only 63.7 per cent of West Australians are fully vaccinated, and 79.3 per cent have had one dose.

“Some of the comments [on social media] already are, ‘Who is he kidding? We will not hit 90 per cent’,” the reporter said.

“My advice to you is do not read the comments,” Mr McGowan replied.

The reporter said these were “just people reacting to what they are hearing here today – you have many followers on social media, Premier – and they are saying, ‘Who is he kidding?’”

“My advice to you is that many people say many things … and I ignore a lot of that comment,” Mr McGowan said.

“We are doing the right thing by the people of the state.”

Asked how he felt the public would react to “being punished going through until the end of February, into March, because of a few stragglers”, Mr McGowan again urged everyone to get the injection.

“I just say to people, go and get vaccinated,” he said.

“Please, go and get vaccinated. The time for protests, carrying on, reading crazy conspiracy theories, is over. Go and get vaccinated, save your life, your family’s life, and do the right thing by the community.”

Mr McGowan said border controls would be eased “at a point where there is no community transmission in Western Australia, combined with very, very high levels of vaccination”.

“I understand there will be disappointment for some,” Mr McGowan said.

“I acknowledge some people will be frustrated. They may not be able to be reunited with family from New South Wales or Vi`ctoria over Christmas. I know what that feels like. I understand. But as difficult as it is, it is for the right reasons. It’s about following the health advice and keeping Western Australia safe.”

WA, which has maintained the toughest border restrictions of any jurisdiction through the pandemic, was the only state not to have publicly released a road map to begin living with the virus.

“The plan will take effect when Western Australia reaches a 90 per cent double-dose vaccination rate for people aged 12 and above,” Mr McGowan said.

“That is forecast to take place in late January or early February. But as we have announced previously, we will announce the specific transition day after we’ve achieved a double-dose vaccination rate of 80 per cent. That’s expected to be reached in December.”

Mr McGowan said the decision came after “extensive modelling”.

“That modelling, which assumes a realistic or medium level of testing, tracing, isolation and quarantine, known as TTIQ, suggests there are undeniable benefits in waiting until our double-dose vaccination rate hits 90 per cent,” he said.

He said the modelling showed the difference between opening borders at 80 per cent and 90 per cent was “200 West Australian lives are saved”.

Once borders reopen, WA will only allow travellers from other states and overseas if they are fully vaccinated, return a negative test within 72 hours of departure, and take another test within 48 hours of arrival.

A large number of restrictions will remain in place even after the state reaches 90 per cent:

• Face masks will be required in “high-risk indoor settings” such as public transport, hospitals and aged care facilities

• Proof of vaccination will be required to attend nightclubs, the casino, and large events with crowds of more than 1000 people such as football matches and concerts

• Contact tracing will still be required in all public venues

• Entry to remote Aboriginal communities will be restricted

“They will be interim – they won’t last forever,” Mr McGowan said. “But they will put us in the best position in case of an outbreak.”

In the event of an outbreak, “step-up restrictions” could be implemented.

“Things like greater use of face masks, capacity and density limits on businesses and venues, additional proof-of-vaccination requirements, and rapid testing at workplaces,” Mr McGowan said.

“These step-up measures are something I want to avoid, and achieving a rate of 90 per cent gives us the best chance of doing just that.”

Mr McGowan earlier this week revealed a “transition plan” was in the works, with his government to spend an additional $400 million on the health system to prepare for an increase in Covid-19 cases.

“We haven’t rushed these things because we have had the luxury of time that other states have not, and so we can do it properly in a well-organised and well calibrated way, and we’ll release all those details on Friday as best we can,” he said on Wednesday.

“We will get to opening up but we want to do it with a soft landing … where we’re able to land out of Covid without too many bumps, without people dying in large numbers and without terrible health or economic consequences.”

It comes after WA slightly eased border restrictions with NSW, downgrading its “extreme risk” designation to “high risk”.

Under the extreme risk designation, issued in late August in the middle of the Delta outbreak, no travellers from NSW were allowed to enter Western Australia — even on compassionate grounds.

From 12am on Saturday, West Australians who were trapped in NSW will be able to return home, as NSW residents with family in the state will be able to visit.

More exemptions will also be available for those hoping to enter WA, specifically for government officials, military personnel and federal MPs.

However, they must be fully vaccinated, return a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of flying to WA and quarantine for 14 days at home.

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