WA COVID reopening announcement: Hard border to fall on Saturday, February 5

Josh Zimmerman and Peter LawThe West Australian
VideoWA Premier Mark McGowan has revealed February 5, 2022 as the date that WA's hard border will come down. Watch his press conference here.

WA’s hard border to the Eastern States - and the world - will be permanently dismantled on February 5.

Premier Mark McGowan announced the long-awaited date on Monday afternoon, putting an end to weeks of speculation and providing certainty to separated families and WA businesses desperate for the return of tourists.

“This date is locked in, giving Western Australians and local businesses certainty,” Mr McGowan said.

“This is an incredible milestone for our State. We are one of the most vaccinated societies in the world and we have achieved this without having extended lockdowns, virus outbreaks or any community spread of the virus.

“We followed a different model to the others and it has worked. We have been able to get through the last two years safely because of the efforts of West Australians.”

February 5 - a Saturday - was selected based on the forecast date WA will reach 90 per cent coverage of all West Australians aged 12 and over.

National Cabinet on Friday received a briefing about the emerging Omicron variant, which has driven a spike in cases in both the UK and South Africa.

Mr McGowan said the initial evidence suggested while Omicron was potentially more transmissible, it appeared to result in less severe disease for the vaccinated.

Vaccine commander Chris Dawson, Chief Health Officer Andrew Robertson and Health Minister Roger Cook.
Camera IconVaccine commander Chris Dawson, Chief Health Officer Andrew Robertson and Health Minister Roger Cook. Credit: Simon Santi

The Premier said he did not believe the new mutation would force a rethink of the re-opening date.

“This date is locked in barring some unforeseen emergency or catastrophe, which we can’t predict,” he said.

“That’s the nature of COVID. But it’s a very safe bet that on February 5 this transition will occur.”

Under the “Safe Transition Plan”, international arrivals will still be required to return a negative PCR test 72 hours prior to travelling.

They must complete a second PCR test within 48 hours of arriving in WA and again on day six after their arrival.

Double-vaccinated international travellers will not be required to quarantine on arrival but anyone who has not been immunised will be forced to complete 14 days of hotel quarantine.

“There will be a cap on the unvaccinated, one significantly lower than cap now in place for international arrivals,” Mr McGowan warned.

Anyone aged 12 and over seeking to travel to WA from interstate will be required to produce proof of vaccination unless ineligible or medically exempt.

Domestic travellers must also return a negative PCR test 72 hours prior to travel and – if their trip lasts six or more days – be tested within 48 hours of arrival.

WA Premier Mark McGowan walks into the press conference.
Camera IconWA Premier Mark McGowan walks into the press conference. Credit: Simon Santi/The West Australian

For trips lasting fewer than six days, testing within WA is not required.

West Australians travelling interstate on trips lasting six days or longer will also be required to complete a test within 72 hours of arriving back home.

From February 5, proof of vaccination will also be required for major events attended by 1000 or more people – including sports matches or concerts at Optus Stadium and RAC Arena – as well as for entry to nightclubs and the casino.

Mask wearing will initially only be required when using public transport, catching a taxi or rideshare or visiting a hospital, aged care home or corrections facility.

QR code check-ins will remain and Mr McGowan said “conditions of entry” would remain for some remote Aboriginal communities where vaccination rates remain low.

The Premier warned that if regional areas such as the Pilbara (currently 46.1 per cent), Kimberley (60.8 per cent) and Goldfields (65 per cent) failed to reach the 80 per cent threshold by February 5, “enhanced public health measures” would be enforced in those locations.

They include requiring proof of vaccination for access to pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes, bottle shops, indoor entertainment venues, gyms and fitness centres.

Vaccine commander Chris Dawson.
Camera IconVaccine commander Chris Dawson. Credit: Simon Santi/The West Australian

Mask wearing would also be required at other indoor venues that would not require proof of vaccination such as supermarkets and roadhouses.

No air travel would be permitted into those regions without proof of vaccination either.

Mr McGowan said the “interim arrangements” would be reviewed four weeks after the February 5 transition date.

If WA fails to reach the 90 per cent threshold by February 5, Mr McGowan said a range of additional but as yet undetermined restrictions would be introduced for the unvaccinated.

He also revealed only 15 per cent of eligible West Australians had so far received their third booster shot - a vital line of defence against Omicron which initial evidence suggests can easily infect those with only two courses of the vaccine.

“So please, when you become eligible for the third dose, which is currently five months after your second dose, please go and get your third dose,” Mr McGowan said.

“It’s so important to keep up your protection.”

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 counting.

Tasmania is currently the only place on the planet that WA permits quarantine-free travel from. This situation may only last a few days because Tasmania opens its borders on Wednesday.

From Monday, arrivals from Queensland in WA must self-quarantine for 14 days. By contrast, Queensland overnight opened its border to vaccinated travellers from NSW, Victoria and the ACT.

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