Australians may be able to take a holiday to Western Australia as early as January, as Premier Mark McGowan hints at a date for when he will finally lift the borders – but it’s likely to herald the start of mandatory mask wearing in the state.
WA has been shut off to most of the country for the majority of the Covid-19 pandemic, earning the nickname ‘Fortress Western Australia’ due to Mr McGowan’s tough border stance.
While the state has remained largely Covid free this year, the premier has been under intense scrutiny for refusing to budge on his plans to reopen until 90 per cent of residents are double vaccinated – which is expected to be hit in January or February.
The state’s Vaccine Commander Chris Dawson said on Thursday the borders would reopen ‘sometime in January’.
Australians may soon be able to take a trip to Western Australia after the state shut its borders during the Covid-19 pandemic (pictured, Perth’s Cottesloe Beach)
Premier Mark McGowan (pictured) said the borders would likely lift in ‘late January or early February’
Mr Dawson said those in the state would also need to get used to living a life with Covid, including the return of masks.
‘The paradigm shift is going to be when the virus does come here, and it will,’ he said.
‘And based on [Chief Health Officer] Dr [Andy] Robertson’s advice, we may have to re-implement the wearing of masks.
‘I don’t like wearing masks – but that will be a big paradigm shift for people. That will be a big step for the community to try to get their heads around.’
Mr McGowan later clarified Mr Dawson’s comments and said the border restrictions would likely lift in ‘late January or early February’.
‘We want to get to that 80 per cent before we set [the date]. Because I don’t want to set it and then have to delay it,’ he said.
Currently WA has just over 85 per cent of its residents with one vaccine dose, while 74 per cent have received both jabs.
WA has remained largely Covid free this year due to its tough border stance (pictured, residents walk along Cottesloe Beach, Perth)
‘When we set (a date for reopening), we want people to be able to plan on that, and airlines to be able to plan, and international airlines to be able to plan, and families to be able to plan,’ the premier continued.
‘I don’t want to then have to delay it and throw people’s plans into turmoil.’
Meanwhile restrictions are further easing over on the other side of the country in NSW.
Once the state reaches its 95 per cent double vaccination target, estimated to be on December 15, masks will only be required on public transport and in airports and planes.
QR check-in codes will also be limited to certain settings while residents won’t need to show their proof of vaccination at most venues.
Mr McGowan earlier said he wouldn’t open his state until 90 per cent were double vaccinated (pictured, revellers at a pub in Perth)