West Australia’s border will open to the world on the 5th of February after almost two years of the state being isolated from the world.
The much anticipated announcement from WA premier Mark McGowan came as the state hit the 80 per cent double dose vaccination milestone for those aged 12 and older.
At a media conference in Perth, McGowan announced the date of reopening, which the state government believes will coincide with 90 per cent of the population aged 12 and older getting fully vaccinated.
WA health minister, Roger Cook, said the state’s COVID-free record was about to come to an end.
“Since November 5, New South Wales and Victoria have experienced more than 53,000 positive cases and 220 deaths,” he said.
“Western Australians are going to be in for a real shock from February 5. But we have been preparing for (COVID-19’s) inevitable arrival.”
Once WA reopens, interstate travellers will have to be fully vaccinated, and if their trip is for 6 days or more they must return a negative COVID test within 72 hours of travel and undertake another test within 48 hours of arrival.
People leaving WA and returning within 5 days don’t need to take a test before returning, but they do need a test within 48 hours of returning.
International travellers will no longer have to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated, but they will need to provide a negative COVID test before departure, on arrival, and on day six.
Unvaccinated travellers will still need to undertake a two-week quarantine in a state-run facility, and there will be a cap on how many unvaccinated travellers can come to WA.
During the press conference, McGowan said the date was locked in to give West Australians and businesses certainty.
“This is a date that some in the community have been waiting to hear for a long time,” he said.
“Many have family abroad that they have been unable to see for nearly two years. I am sure this date will be a cause of relief and celebration.
“For others, this is an announcement that will cause great concern. They or their loved ones might be immunocompromised. Some will be worried about their children or their older parents,” McGowan said.
The WA premier also said that the first dose vaccination rate in WA is 89.1 per cent.
“We have followed the health advice. But with a vaccination rate of 90 per cent and reasonable public health measures, the health advice is clear — we can safely ease our border controls and reconnect WA,” he said.
“I am confident that this is the right time and the right way to take this important step.
“Western Australia’s current zero-COVID environment and high vaccination rate will help deliver the softest landing to minimise the impact of the virus when it enters our state and to keep Western Australians safe for the long-term,” McGowan said.
Some other updates include WA reintroducing extra restrictions such as proof of vaccination for entry into nightclubs, the casino, major sporting stadiums and at events with 1,000 or more patrons.
Mask wearing will be required for public transport, taxis and ride-share services, airports and on flights, visitors to hospitals, residential aged care, residential disability care, and custodial corrections facilities.
McGowan also announced certain regions with lower vaccination rates will have stronger restrictions.
“The Pilbara have a double-dose vaccination rate of 46.1 per cent, the Kimberley is at 60.8 per cent and the Goldfields at 65 per cent,” he said.
“If those regions do not reach at least 80 per cent by February 5, they will be subject to enhanced public health measures.”
These measures include; proof of vaccination at pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes, bottle shops, indoor entertainment venues, and gyms; mask-wearing at other indoor venues, such as supermarkets and roadhouses; and no air travel allowed into the region without proof of vaccination for people aged 12 and over.
McGowan also encouraged booster shots for residents in WA and highlighted their importance against the new Omicron strain.
The WA premier also said that the date is locked in ‘barring unforeseen emergency.’
“This date is locked in barring some unforeseen emergency or catastrophe which we cannot predict,” he said.
“It is a very safe bet that on February 5, this transition will occur.”