Broome business chamber, local doctor back WA border opening delay as COVID fears grow

Sam JonesBroome Advertiser
Broome Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Sharni Foulkes.
Camera IconBroome Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Sharni Foulkes. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr/Broome Advertiser

Broome businesses and doctors have breathed a “collective sigh of relief” at WA Premier Mark McGowan’s decision to push back the February 5 border opening date indefinitely.

Mr McGowan revealed the hard border is set to remain on February 5 as it would be “reckless and irresponsible” to reopen as planned due to the Omicron variant wreaking havoc “over east”.

A chorus of opposition to the decision has sung out across the State, but in Broome a “majority” of businesses are supportive of the decision, Broome Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sharni Foulkes said.

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“There was a lot of confusion and anxiety surrounding the border opening and what it would mean for local business,” she said.

“I think people just felt, locally, it wouldn’t help much — most businesses around town have had a good year and the uncertainty around what would happen once Omicron gets into the community would be more challenging than continuing as we have.

“It was a collective sigh of relief for most of our members, we can now look forward to another good dry season without worrying about lock downs and cancellations.”

Mr McGowan said if quarantine-free travel restarted on February 5 as planned “we will be deliberately seeding thousands upon thousands of COVID cases into WA”.

His comments were echoed by Broome-based doctor Alex Harris, who said it was the right move to keep West Australians safe.

“In my personal opinion, the announcement was a relief, there is absolutely no reason to expect we would have any different outcome to what has been seen over in the east — it’s been a disaster there,” he said.

Premier Mark McGowan provides an update on Western Australia's borders in regards to COVID-19 - 20/01/2022
Camera IconPremier Mark McGowan provides an update on Western Australia's borders in regards to COVID-19 - 20/01/2022 Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

“I’m not immune to the harsh feelings of separation as a result of the closed border. I haven’t seen my brother or my wife’s family for going on two years, my kids haven’t seen their cousins, but on weighted averages it just isn’t worth it.”

Some 71.2 per cent of Kimberley residents over the age of 15 are considered fully vaccinated, with 80.3 per cent having had their first dose.

Dr Harris said he hoped a broader approach to containing the disease is prepared before opening.

“Internationally, it’s become very clear vaccines should only be part of the response,” he said.

“They (vaccines) are hugely important to minimise the severity of the disease — the numbers from NSW show how over-represented non-vaccinated people are in ICU.

“That being said, there are other things which should be done. Air filtration and monitoring systems in our classrooms and enclosed areas for a start, there are many things which work together with vaccines to stop the spread.”

About 6000 interstate and international passengers were due to touch down at Perth Airport on February 5, with up to 80,000 interstate and international passengers expected in the first two weeks.

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