Western Australia is known for imposing some of the hardest border restrictions in the world over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it may all be unravelling as an unvaccinated backpacker slipped through the cracks.
The state, which doesn’t allow fully-vaccinated and COVID-negative Australians across the border, was expected to open up at 90 per cent vaccination on Fabruary 5 as summer begins to die down.
However, WA is facing its first legitimate threat of community transmission in months, which could see the initial plan come completely undone. The premier has admitted that if a widespread outbreak occurs, his February plan would be made “redundant”.
“Obviously if we have community spread of the virus, then we will have to reconsider everything. How we reopen, when we reopen, all those sorts of things.
“The aim was to get to February 5 with over 90 per cent double dose vaccination of over-twelves, before such time as we opened the borders. But as I’ve said, it’s not easy to make it that far because something could happen.” Premier Mark McGowan said.
“And here we have a very unlikely event that has occured… someome came into Western Australia from Queensland, who was COVID positive, when Queensland literally had a handful of cases when he left that state.”
The unvaccinated backpacker arrived in WA from Queensland on December 12 — an hour before WA shut its border to Queensland at 12:01am.
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The Frenchman then processed to party at a series of bars and nightclubs, staying out until 5am on Saturday night, forcing hundreds of close contacts into isolation.
Mr. McGowan has stated that he has no idea how the man got in.
Queensland, at the time, was classifies as a “very low risk area”, meaning that all the man had to do was fill out a pass form with personal information and submit to a basic health screening at the airport.
The man entered WA just before Queensland was classified a “low” risk area (meaning he would’ve had to isolate for 14 days).
WA has recorded a new local case of COVID-19, related to a backpacker from Queensland.
A number of potential exposure sites have been identified across Perth, including in Mirrabooka, Joondalup, Girrawheen, Perth and the CBD, Subiaco, Northbridge and Scarborough. pic.twitter.com/gMx8E9cqJ7
— Mark McGowan (@MarkMcGowanMP) December 23, 2021
New rules being enforced:
From 6pm on Thursday until at least 6am on Tuesday, people in the Perth and Peel regions will be made to wear a mask.
It will be mandatory in all public indoor settings, including workplaces, shopping centres, hospitality venues and public transport.
The mandate does not apply to people at home or people doing vigorous indoor exercise, but it is recommended outside when you cannot physically distance.
Large public events, such as music festivals, will be cancelled. Nightclubs will be closed and all dancing will be banned except for weddings.
You can check on the border rules for each state over Christmas here.
For more on this topic, follow the Travel Observer.