Mark McGowan press conference: Time Premier to announce COVID-19 border reopening date revealed
Mark McGowan is expected to announce when the WA border will reopen to the rest of Australia and the world at 2 p.m. ET.
WA first introduced a hard border on April 6, 2020 – a measure described by Mr McGowan as ‘turning WA into its own island within an island’ – meaning border controls have now been in place for 616 days and count.
Tasmania is currently the only place on the planet from which WA allows travel without quarantine. This situation could only last a few days as Tasmania opens its borders on Wednesday.
There is feverish speculation on the calendar day when families divided by the WA border will finally reunite and COVID-19 will be allowed into the community.
A large number of direct flights between Perth and the Eastern States are available from January 31, but it is understood that these flights were hosted some time ago so that airlines can keep their slots.
The date has been a closely guarded secret, with the prime minister only saying it would be between “late January and early February” when WA is expected to achieve 90 percent double-dose for over 12 years.
McGowan finalized details of the “safe transition plan” on Monday morning at a meeting of his emergency management team, which includes Vaccine Commander Chris Dawson and Public Health Chief Andy Robertson.
The plan was then approved by Cabinet ahead of the 2 p.m. press conference.
Despite the emergence of the rapidly spreading Omicron variant of COVID-19, a WA government spokesperson said on Sunday evening that once the WA border reopens, it will remain open.
Early data from overseas shows third doses were needed to protect against the Omicron variant, which appears to be more transmissible than Delta but perhaps not as serious.
There are 536 new cases of COVID-19 in New South Wales as fully vaccinated people begin to return to Queensland, which has opened its border to fully vaccinated travelers overnight.
SA reported 13 local cases on Monday, most of which are believed to be Delta. Victoria has reported 1,290 new COVID-19 infections and two more deaths.
The timing of the reopening could impact at least two major events, with Australia Day Skyworks due to return on January 26 after a year-long absence.
About 300,000 people are expected to flock to the banks of the Swan River for the spectacular fireworks display.
On January 30, Australia and New Zealand will play One Day International at Optus Stadium.
If the border opened after January 30, the game would be in serious jeopardy as Perth was stripped of the Fifth Ash Test due to the border’s strict rules.
Regardless of Omicron’s threat, WA Liberal leader Mr Honey has said he supports setting a reopening date in late January or early February.
However, he called for a more concerted push by the Western Australian government to encourage uptake of recalls and greater transparency regarding the number of Western Australians who had received their third dose.
“This reminder is essential for the opening of the borders,” said Mr. Honey.
“The vast majority of Western Australians are totally unaware that they need this third booster to maximize the effectiveness of the COVID vaccine.
“So it worries me that as the state opens up to foreign and interstate tourists, we’re going to have a lot of Western Australians with lower vaccination rates than they should be. “
As of Monday, arrivals from Queensland to Washington state are to self-quarantine for 14 days. By contrast, Queensland opened its border overnight to vaccinated travelers from NSW, Victoria and ACT.
Mr McGowan said that even if WA did not meet its ambitious goal of 90% fully immunized, the reopening date would remain ‘on lock’.
Failure to achieve a 90% double dose could result in hefty penalties for those who avoided the jab, including proof of vaccination to enter cafes, restaurants, bars, cinemas and gyms.
Unvaccinated West Australians living in regional areas with low jab rates, such as Pilbara, are also at risk of being trapped by intra-state border closures in 2022.