Coronavirus WA: Mark McGowan brings down hard border as State moves to a ‘controlled border’

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Josh ZimmermanThe West Australian
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VideoWA Premier Mark McGowan has revealed plans to open fortress WA from November 14.

WA’s hard border will be replaced with a “controlled border” on November 14, reuniting the State with the rest of the country — including NSW and Victoria.

Travellers from every State and Territory will be permitted into WA, with only those arriving from Victoria and NSW required to self-quarantine at a “suitable premise” for a fortnight.

The current exemption-based system will be scrapped.

Instead, all interstate arrivals will be screened and have their temperature taken at Perth Airport as they arrive and must be prepared to submit to COVID-19 testing.

As first revealed by The West Australian, those arriving from Tasmania, South Australia, Queensland, Northern Territory and the ACT – States and Territories currently designated “very low risk” – will not be required to quarantine.

Under the new system, very low risk jurisdictions are defined as those that have not recorded a locally acquired case of COVID-19 for 28 days.

Premier Mark McGowan said WA’s ‘world class’ response to the pandemic meant it could now open up a ‘controlled border’.
Camera IconPremier Mark McGowan said WA’s ‘world class’ response to the pandemic meant it could now open up a ‘controlled border’. Credit: Ian Munro/The West Australian

Despite failing to record 28 days of no community spread, NSW and Victoria have been designated “low risk” because their 14-day average of new locally acquired cases is below five.

That means travellers arriving from those States will be permitted to enter WA, but must tested if required, self-quarantine for 14 days and submit to a mandatory test on the 11th day.

All travellers will still be required to complete a G2G pass declaring they have no coronavirus symptoms before arriving in WA. However, the need to meet specific criteria qualifying for an exemption will be removed.

Anyone arriving at Perth Airport will also be given the option of completing a voluntary COVID-19 test.

All travellers will receive an SMS health check reminder one week into their stay in WA, while arrivals by land will be met at the border checkpoint for health screening and to check G2G PASS declarations.

Effective tomorrow, exempt New Zealand travellers will no longer be required to spend 14 days in hotel quarantine. Instead, they will be directed to self-quarantine for 14 days at a suitable premises and required to complete a COVID-19 test on day 11.

International arrivals will continue to serve 14 days hotel quarantine.

Mark McGowan said he was prepared to delay the move to a controlled border “right up to the last minute” and would not hesitate to slam the hard border back into place if cases spikes in other jurisdictions.

The Premier said the hard border had always been based on expert health advice and had served its purpose.

“We knew that our State’s isolation was our best defence,” he said.

“We turned WA into and island within an island. And it worked.

“We would not be proceeding down this path unless we had the clear health advice to do so.”

Mr McGowan said he was “so proud of Western Australians’ world-leading response” and understood the “frustration and stress” the hard border had caused for some families and businesses.

“I thank everyone for their understanding and patience along his pandemic journey.”

Health minister Roger Cook at the COVID-19 hard border press conference.
Camera IconHealth minister Roger Cook at the COVID-19 hard border press conference. Credit: Ian Munro/The West Australian

Health Minister Roger Cook stressed the importance of West Australians refocusing on social distancing.

“Back in March and April, there was a fundamental but simple reason WA remained so safe,” Mr Cook said.

“We kept a respectable distance from each other. We practised good hygiene. All this helped stop the transmission of COVID-19.

“But there is no doubt we have all become more relaxed. That was to be expected as the threat of COVID-19 in this State decreased. We have to get back to basics.”

WHAT NOW FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL?

Mr McGowan said his personal belief was that “importation” of coronavirus from overseas was now the biggest threat facing West Australian and the country.

Mr McGowan urged Prime Minister Scott Morrison to be “very careful” about opening up Australia to international travellers, as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to explode across parts of Europe, the UK and the United States.

Tourism Council WA chief executive Evan Hall welcomed the move to a controlled border, which he said would allow local businesses to resume marketing themselves to the eastern states ahead of Christmas and the summer holidays.

“Tourism businesses which have been struggling to secure staff for upcoming busy seasons will now have the opportunity to recruit much-needed workers from interstate,” he said.

“The tourism industry is willing to work with the Government to ensure we reopen in a COVID-safe way, including through testing, cleaning, and records of attendance.

“If the health advice changes before November 14, then the industry accepts that the reopening may be postponed.”

CONSTITUTIONAL FIGHT

Mr McGowan said WA would continue to fight Clive Palmer’s High Court challenge to the constitutionality of the hard border.

“I think the vast majority of States agree States need to have this capacity if the virus were to come back.

“States, particularly isolated states, need to have the capacity to protect ourselves and our citizens,” he said.

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