Western Australia’s February 5 re-opening date is just over two weeks away but officials have only provided a vague outline of how the state will deal with an impending influx of visitors.
The state has remained closed to the rest of the country for the majority of the pandemic, but with vaccination rates creeping towards 90 per cent Premier Mark McGowan appears to be holding firm with the roadmap.
However, critical workers remain in the dark about the plans for dealing with an expected rise in Covid cases, with healthcare staff and school faculty asking for clarification from the state government.
It comes as the state’s Covid outbreak continues to grow, reporting five new local Covid cases in a sign the virus is spreading ahead of the border reopening.
Four of the cases are close contacts, two of whom were in quarantine, with the others potentially infectious in the community.
The source of the final infection is unknown.
How YOU will be able to enter Western Australia on February 5
Double dose vaccinated international arrivals will be required to:
- While double dose vaccinated international arrivals will not be required to quarantine and are not subject to the arrivals cap, unvaccinated international arrivals will be required to quarantine for 14 days, either in a designated hotel or the future quarantine facility.
- All international travel into WA remains subject to the Commonwealth’s biosecurity and border settings – as that being the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government.
- All domestic arrivals, aged 12 and over, must be double dose vaccinated, unless ineligible or medically exempt.
- All domestic travellers coming into WA will need a G2G Pass.
Testing requirements for domestic arrivals fall under three categories:
- Interstate arrivals coming into WA or WA travellers leaving and returning on a trip that is six days or more will require a negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure prior to travelling to WA, and undertake a negative PCR test within 48 hours of arrival
- Interstate arrivals coming into WA for five days or less will require a negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure but are not required to have any tests on arrival into WA
- WA travellers who leave then return to WA within 5 days or less do not need a test before arriving back into the State, but they will require a PCR test within 48 hours of returning
WA’s Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said in a press conference on Wednesday that hospital would would be told ‘this week’ of the plans for isolation period and close contacts beyond February 5.
She did however admit that rules for the wider public are yet to be confirmed.
‘I would like that information to be delivered this week, and there will certainly be information going to the healthcare workforce this week,’ Ms Sanderson said.
‘What the broader industry requirements will be are being worked on as well and that will be communicated.’
Several events in the lead up to February 5 have already been called off, including Perth Festival and the City to Surf.
Businesses are telling staff to remain working from home, with the capital’s CBD a relative ghost town.
Western Australia: What we know about the rules for re-opening
- National Cabinet has agreed to define a ‘close contact’ as someone who has spent four or more hours with a positive case in a household-like setting. Mr McGowan has indicated Western Australia will follow this definition
- Isolation periods remain 14 days in WA but eastern states have cut that period to seven days, with that even smaller for critical workers. It’s not known whether Mr McGowan will reduce isolation times
- Rapid antigen tests are expected to become common place for critical workers including healthcare, teachers and supply chain, as they have in eastern states
- Pharmacies and chemists have had extra time to stock RATs but a shortage in Australia may mean lower numbers
- Density limits on venues remain a mystery
- Caps of private events including weddings are also unknown
- Schools are demanding answers on rules should positive cases arise among staff and students
- Masks will be required to be worn in some high risk indoor settings including: on public transport, taxis or ride share services; at airports and on flights; and by visitors to hospitals, residential aged care, disability care or custodial corrections facilities
- Proof of vaccination for people 16 years and older will be required at: venues or events with 1,000 or more patrons, nightclubs, the Crown complex, and the four major stadia (Optus Stadium, RAC Arena, HBF Stadium – Main Arena and HBF Park)
- Other businesses may also choose to have proof of vaccination requirements as a condition of entry to protect their staff and patrons
- Businesses should consider their individual circumstances and seek their own legal advice before adopting a proof of vaccination requirement
- Contact registration, including the use of SafeWA will be required at all public venues, and expand to also include taxis and rideshare services
- To keep patrons and staff safe, revised COVID Safety Plans, Event Plans and Checklists must be followed. These are currently being updated and will be available soon
- Public health and social measures may be scaled up or down based on updated health advice or rates of hospitalisation
Western Australia’s February 5 re-opening date is just over two weeks away, with officials still yet to put in place mandates for the impending influx of visitors
Ms Sanderson said the goverment were going over the plans for WA residents, but admitted they won’t know how to handle Omicron until well after the state re-opens.
‘What we want to do is put out the most final plans that we can,’ Ms Sanderson said.
‘I absolutely understand that there is some concern and anxiety in the community, particularly the health workforce, around what is going to be (like) if and when the surge comes.
‘We need more time for Omicron to essentially be present (in Australia) before we can determine the death rate for example.
‘We’re not going to be relying on modelling as such as to be making these decisions at this point.’
Ms Sanderson said Mr McGowan’s (pictured) government were going over the plans for WA residents, but admitted they won’t know how to handle Omicron until well after the state re-opens
Mark McGowans Safe Transition Plan, released in November, is built off the more severe Delta strain and is largely irrelevant to the more mild but infectious Omicron variant.
The state’s shadow health minister says the government have had adequate time to prepare a plan to re-join the rest of Australia.
‘The McGowan Government has had two years to prepare for this day and it is completely unacceptable that with the imminent opening of the State’s border our health workers, business community and students have absolutely no idea what will be required,’ Libby Mettam said.
Mr McGowan took another shot at his eastern counterpart, saying he has thrown New South Wales’ $5million invoice for hotel quarantine in the bin.
Premier Dominic Perrottet sent Western Australia the latest bill for returning residents from the closed-off state, taking its total owed since mid-2020 to $16.4million.
That figure would mean NSW has helped bring almost 5,500 West Australians home, based on the $3,000 individual hotel quarantine fee.
Mr McGowan said the bill was ‘ridiculous’ and that it was every state’s responsibility to help bring home Aussies from overseas, despite his state providing significantly less places than NSW, Victoria and Queensland.
‘On behalf of every Western Australian, the invoice has been treated exactly how it should be – it is scrunched up in a ball at the bottom of my bin,’ the WA premier said.
Premier Dominic Perrottet sent Western Australia the latest $5million bill for hotel quarantine for returning residents from the state, taking its total owed since mid-2020 to $16.4million
In June, 2020 NSW had 11,670 arrivals, compared to Western Australia’s 1,760.
December of the same year saw NSW welcome home 16,410 returning Aussies while WA allowed in 4,580.
Last month, NSW brought 40,610 Australians home while Western Australia only allowed in 7,220.
Mr McGowan said the bill was ‘arrogant’ and ‘unAustralian’ because every state should share the responsibility, despite NSW overwhelmingly providing Australia’s gateway to the world.
‘We all have a responsibility to look after returning Australians and Western Australia has done more than our fair share of the heavy lifting per capita, so for NSW to demand millions in payments from every Western Australian is wrong,’ he said.
The Labor leader said the payments were a ‘punishment’ for his state doing ‘such a good job’ of managing Covid, by cutting itself off from the rest of the country for the better part of two years.
Mr McGowan said the bill was ‘arrogant’ and ‘unAustralian’ because every state should share the responsibility of bringing residents home
‘First they came for our fair share GST. Now they want millions more. When will it ever be enough?’ he said.
‘By doing the right thing, Western Australians have crushed and killed any virus outbreaks.
‘In doing so, we are single-handedly propping up the rest of the nation — including NSW.
‘Western Australians should not be penalised for doing such a good job of managing the pandemic, especially by a State that has not only mismanaged the virus, but in doing so sparked other outbreaks across the nation, including here in WA.’