Mark McGowan has reassured West Australians worried about relaxing the state’s tough border stance that he won’t hesitate to reinstate it if needed.
The Labor leader announced on Friday quarantine-free travel will be allowed from the very low risk jurisdictions of Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT from November 14.
But travellers from NSW and Victoria will still be required to self-quarantine for 14 days in suitable approved premises and be tested for COVID-19 on day 11.
The announcement came as a surprise given that just one week earlier, the Premier refused to agree to National Cabinet’s plan to open domestic borders by Christmas.
In a video posted to social media on Sunday, Mr McGowan said 2020 had been tough for all but even harder for WA residents living elsewhere who wanted to return home and people who yearned to visit family in the state.
“My parents and brother live in NSW — it has been difficult not knowing when I will be able to see them again so I know what Friday’s announcement will mean for many West Australians ,” he said.
“At every stage, I’ve been guided by the expert health advice, and it’s that advice that has allowed us to take this cautious and considered step to a controlled interstate border.
“All this year, we’ve seen how quickly things can change and I will not hesitate to adapt our measures to protect the health of Western Australians.
“This includes reintroducing the hard border or delaying our move to the controlled border.”
Mr McGowan’s tough border stance is hugely popular among West Australians, earning him approval ratings as high as 91 per cent. Picture: Matt Jelonek/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
WA has been at phase four of relaxed restrictions since June 27, allowing lucky residents to go to pubs and restaurants, watch performances, and socialise widely with family and friends.
Even Optus Stadium has been allowed to operate at half capacity with more than 30,000 attendees.
Few people wear face masks anymore, some are seen not observing social distancing and many shops have removed floor markers designed to encourage it.
That’s why there is concern the state is vulnerable to an outbreak if the virus returns, something acknowledged by WA Health Minister Roger Cook.
He said there was no doubt West Australians had become more relaxed as the threat of coronavirus decreased, and urged people to abide by hygiene rules and get tested if symptomatic.
Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller is pleased family reunions are on the cards — he previously accused the state government of “economic discrimination” for heavily skewing travel exemptions to workers — but is concerned the state is not “culturally ready” for the change.
United Australia Party leader Clive Palmer is not a fan of WA’s “hard border”. Picture: AAP/Rebecca Le MaySource:AAP
“Buy masks as well as tinsel this year,” Dr Miller tweeted.
“WA needs to have covid outbreak drills to maintain readiness.
“Mandate mask wearing on public transport & in lifts every Monday, for example, to get people used to it.
“Anyone visiting hospitals or aged care should wear masks to practice.
“It’s coming. Get ready.”
Meanwhile, the WA government’s legal showdown with Clive Palmer over the “hard border” reaches the High Court this month.
The Queensland billionaire launched the constitutional challenge after he was denied entry to the state in May, accusing Mr McGowan of risking “economic shutdown with his Gestapo tactics”.
It’s not the first time the pair have traded barbs, and both are suing each other for defamation.
It has been almost six months since WA last recorded a case of community transmission, but there have been close calls with cases imported to the export-reliant state on livestock vessels, bulk carriers, and, in the early stages of the pandemic, cruise ships.
WA Health was monitoring 42 active cases as of Sunday.
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