Premier Mark McGowan is continuing to delay a decision on when Western Australia’s border restrictions will be relaxed, but will not allow people from states with COVID-19 hotspots to visit before Christmas.
“People need to understand, we’ll open when the time is right, and it’s safe to do so,” Mr McGowan said on Tuesday.
“Our approach will remain cautious and careful. But ultimately, very safe. That is why border controls with New South Wales, the ACT and Victoria, will remain in place.”
It is estimated WA will hit an 80 per cent vaccination rate by December, but Mr McGowan said he would not follow Queensland’s lead and set a date to open up as that would ruin Christmas for West Australians by having to possibly reinstate measures such as wearing masks.
“I don’t want to go down that route certainly before Christmas, put in place all sorts of measures to restrict people’s activity fun, excitement, completely devastate the tourism industry over that point in time,” Mr McGowan said.
The Premier said he did not want WA to fall at the last hurdle, and instead would keep the state as secure as possible while vaccination rates increased, hoping for a “soft landing”.
WA’s vaccination rate for people 12 and older has now grown to 73.2 per cent for first doses and 54.7 per cent for two doses. It is expected that the rate will hit 80 per cent in December. New vaccination clinics were being opened in areas where there were low levels of vaccination.
“Once we get to [80 per cent] we’ll have greater certainty on when we can open borders with New South Wales, Victoria, and the ACT,” Mr McGowan said.
“Once we get that certainty that decision can be made. But the reality is, Western Australia and Western Australians have done a marvellous job over the course of the last two years and dealing with the situation we face. We don’t apologise for being risk averse, in this environment.”
Mr McGowan claimed said WA was a free society, while NSW and Victoria were not.
“They’re claiming it is freedom to be able to gather in groups of 10, to have to wear masks when they go outside, to have to wear masks in the workplace,” he said.
“We don’t have any of that. So ... I’d much prefer our position to their position.”
While Mr McGowan would not allow fully vaccinated people from NSW or Victoria to visit WA by Christmas, he announced he was downgrading the state’s border rules with Queensland, allowing travel between the two states from Friday morning.