WA has rejected a national plan to open local borders by Christmas but there is still hope the state will join the rest of the country, provided Victoria and NSW reach 28 days without community transmission of COVID-19.
Victoria has gone two weeks without community spread of the virus, while NSW has reached seven days.
“They are an example to the world,” WA Premier Mark McGowan told reporters on Friday following the national cabinet meeting.
“At the 28-day mark of no community transmission in Victoria, we will consider removing the controlled border arrangement. We won’t consider it before then.
“We don’t believe in artificial deadlines … we’re going to be guided by health.
“Christmas is important but the health of West Australians is more important and setting up an artificial deadline for Christmas, I don’t think, is wise and so that’s why we didn’t agree to it.”
Mr McGowan said every other jurisdiction presented an extremely low risk, but there were still some concerns about Victoria and NSW for now.
“It’s not automatic that at 28 days … that we remove the controlled border for Victoria,” he said.
“We’ll take health advice closer to that day and make a decision based upon the circumstances at that time.”
Starting on Saturday, travellers from all jurisdictions, except NSW and Victoria, will be allowed to enter WA without quarantining but must complete a G2G PASS declaration.
Travellers from NSW and Victoria must self-quarantine for two weeks and be tested for coronavirus on day 11.
The announcement was made late last month – although the Premier warned at the time that the decision could be overturned pending the situation in the eastern states – and was officially confirmed on Friday.
“We always said we would wait until the very end before confirming the transition, based on the infection rates over east,” Mr McGowan said.
“It is very pleasing to see the rest of Australia doing so well in defeating the virus.”
Mr McGowan described WA’s new border rules as cautious, safe, balanced and sensible.
About 2000 people are expected to arrive at the airport over the weekend, including international arrivals.
“There will be delays at the airport. These controls are unprecedented and will be frustrating for many people, but if you are coming to WA we ask for your patience and understanding,” he said.
“These controls are in place to protect everyone.”
The Premier reiterated that WA would continue to watch the eastern states very closely and would shut the border again if necessary.
Among the topics discussed at the cabinet meeting was the review into contact tracing and outbreak management systems.
“The review endorsed our approach in WA, giving us confidence in knowing we are well prepared for an outbreak if that was to occur,” Mr McGowan said.
Asked about some medical groups claiming WA was not prepared for an outbreak, Mr McGowan said he urged everyone to be positive and not scaremonger.
Mr McGowan also reiterated that international arrivals remained Australia’s biggest threat.
“COVID-19 is circling Australia and therefore we cannot get complacent,” the Premier said.
“Deadly second waves and extreme lockdown measures in many countries is something I desperately want to avoid.
“Our international border must stay in place.
“I’m pleased the Prime Minister agrees with this approach and will not unnecessarily rush to reopening our international borders.”
The Premier noted that many FIFO workers had moved to WA during the pandemic and he encouraged them to stay despite the border rules changing.
“One of the great economic benefits of our hard border has been thousands of people moving here to work from interstate permanently and the major companies are now almost exclusively only employing West Australians,” he said.
“That was the consequence of what we did.
“We didn’t actually go into it with that intent, but obviously once we started with the hard border 222 days ago we said to the companies you can’t FIFO anymore, and so they brought their people to WA and it’s been a marvellous economic benefit for our state.”