NSW case numbers have dropped to a record low as the jab rate soars, but WA’s “extreme risk” border shows no signs of easing – here’s why.
While overseas travel has resumed for NSW residents as of today, the WA Government has remained firm on their hard border with the state.
Despite NSW recording a mere 135 cases on Monday, WA Premier Mark McGowan has continued to classify NSW as an “extreme risk” jurisdiction, saying he fears WA residents could access overseas travel via Sydney, before returning to the state. He also expressed fears relaxed travel restrictions could bring a spike in infections, threatening the state’s current zero seven-day case average.
“It could mean that under NSW’s arrangements, if we drop them to what’s called ‘high’, people could go out of NSW overseas, come back into NSW without quarantining and then demand to come back to WA,” he said.
“This is the quandary we are in,” he continued. “We don’t want to encourage that because all it will mean is we get spread of the virus before such time as we have high enough levels of vaccination.”
Mr McGowan also said WA’s vaccination rates would need to reach a “very high” level before travellers would be allowed into the state from NSW, Victoria and overseas.
This comes as NSW’s 14-day virus average dropped to 277 as of Sunday. The state has also reached a 87.5 per cent full vaccination rate for people over the age of 16, with WA’s double dose rate sitting at 60.6 per cent for their population aged 12 and over.
Despite this, the western state is the only Australian jurisdiction who has yet to cement a formalised reopening timeline, with the Premier revealing no plans to re-open the state for fully-vaccinated travellers.
Speaking to media in late October, Mr McGowan hinted that the highly-anticipated date could be pushed back to as late as June 2022.
“We’ll get to a reunion with people in NSW and Victoria sometime in the first half of next year,” he said. “I’m one of those people. I’m seeing my parents again sometime in the first half of next year.”
He’s also slated reopening international travel for “the first half of next year”.
‘You need to provide a plan’
In the wake of WA’s continued hard border, people have denounced Mr McGowan’s update on Twitter. Both WA and interstate residents have dubbed the decision cruel, with calls for a confirmed re-opening date before Christmas.
“Can a triple vaxed from US come in via NSW and see 95 year old parents. My Dad is beginning to give up,” shared one Twitter user.
“The biggest issue is that NSW has remained at “extreme risk” without meeting any publicly available criteria. Twenty days of
“The McGowan govt will retain NSW’s extreme border rating because it doesn’t want West Aussies travelling overseas via NSW.So, WA will continue to ban compassion to punish states who are forging the recovery and people who want to get on with their lives,” wrote another.
Others, have commended the Premier for keeping WA residents safe, sharing their support of his strict policies.
“I would not expect anything less from our Government. Thank you for keeping us Covid free. So thankful to be living in Western Australia. Looking forward to an incredible 2022,” read one Tweet.
“Works for me, keep following health advice, I hope all of the others do the same. If only Gladys had done that in June,” shared another.
Current state of WA’s border restrictions
As it stands, interstate travellers from medium (ACT), high or extreme risk jurisdictions (Victoria and NSW) are strictly banned from entering WA, regardless of their vaccination status.
Residents from states classified as “extreme risk” are unable to enter the state even on compassionate grounds, with only government officials, military personnel, MPs and skilled specialists in time-critical services matching the strict criteria for ‘approved travellers’.
Approved travellers entering from the ACT, NSW and Victoria also need to be fully-vaccinated in order to enter the state, in addition to undertaking 14-day quarantine and testing requirements.
In comparison, travellers from the very low risk jurisdictions of the NT, SA, Tasmania and Queensland are allowed to freely travel into the state with no vaccination or quarantine measures.