Confusion over the future of Western Australia’s border closure has increased, with the premier insisting it needs to stay shut, after the state Health Minister said it was time to look at reopening.
Last week, Health Minister Roger Cook endorsed the prospect of relaxing border rules to re-open to some states, while staying shut to jurisdictions with continuing community transmission of the coronavirus.
“We do need to consider the situation now,” Cook said, via ABC News. “We are now in a position to consider what we do with our borders in the short and medium term and what we do with that opening process.
“There is public health advice that says the situation in Queensland, Northern Territory and South Australia is now essentially stable, they have no community spread of the disease, so we should consider how we open ourselves to freeing up the movement of people between those states.”
Cook cautioned that WA needed to be confident in the border rules of those states before opening.
But almost an hour after Cook’s comments, Premier Mark McGowan released updated health advice saying the state needed to remain closed, according to ABC News.
“I am of the current view that the [closed border] directions should remain as currently promulgated but should be reviewed in two weeks’ time,” Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson wrote, in advice reportedly tabled in parliament by McGowan.
The state government’s current position on reopening to other states and territories is that there must be 28 days without community transmission of the coronavirus, with Premier McGowan maintaining that opening to some and not others is unconstitutional.
Premier McGowan reportedly said the advice from Dr Robertson was clear.
“The written advice and the verbal advice by the Chief Health Officer indicates, at this point in time, the border needs to remain in place to all states and territories,” McGowan said, as reported by ABC News.
“That is the confirmed position by the Chief Health Officer, and if you want to question that, that means you are impugning his integrity.”
According to the national broadcaster, McGowan was later quizzed about why the Health Minister’s comments were different to Thursday’s tabled advice, during Question Time in Parliament.
“Obviously in the future we will consider what the appropriate course forward is for Western Australia,” McGowan said, as reported by ABC News.
“That’s not an unreasonable position.”
However, WA’s Liberal Party Opposition leader Liza Harvey accused Premier Mark McGowan of “cherry-picking” from the advice for “political advantage”.
Featured image: Elizabeth Quay, Perth (iStock.com/Bruce Aspley)