April 02, 2020 20:58:32
The WA Government will introduce a “temporary closure” of its interstate border effective from midnight on Sunday, with the WA Premier saying the state’s isolation was its best defence against the threat of COVID-19 spread.
- Previously people entering the state had to isolate for 14 days
- Now they will be turned away unless they meet exemption criteria
- The rule will also apply to West Australian residents returning home
“WA is in a unique position, our isolation is our best defence, and we need to use it to our advantage,” Mark McGowan said.
“While our overall numbers are encouraging, we need to take further steps to protect our state.
“In effect we’ll be turning Western Australia into an island within an island — our own country.”
Mr McGowan said the new moves stepped up existing restrictions on people coming into the state.
“We currently have restrictions in place for people coming into Western Australia and requiring 14 days of self-isolation,” Mr McGowan said.
“Those restrictions are working well.
“But it makes sense that we go further now and close the border. It won’t be forever, it’s a temporary closure to make sure limit the spread of the virus in WA.”
West Australians told: ‘Come home now’
Mr McGowan said the arrangements of the closure were still being finalised, but the message to West Australians in other states thinking of coming home was clear.
“You need to come home to Western Australia and come home now,” Mr McGowan said.
“I cannot stress that enough.”
The message was as equally blunt to anyone from the eastern states thinking of travelling to WA.
“Forget about it,” Mr McGowan said.
“And while we are in this state of emergency, we need you to stay where you are. The quicker we can get through this, the quicker we can get back to normal.
“These are drastic steps but also sensible and workable. It will give us the best chance of combatting the virus and minimising the spread throughout our community.”
The Premier said the State Government had taken legal advice on the Commonwealth Constitution implications of the move and the border closure needed to be “one rule for all” — including West Australian residents.
“People coming from interstate, we can’t discriminate without grounds,” Mr McGowan said.
Visitors to be prevented from boarding flights
He said officers appointed by Police Commissioner Chris Dawson would be tasked with assessing whether travellers — including West Australian residents attempting to return home after the Sunday midnight deadline — qualified for exemptions being put in place.
Mr McGowan said some people might think the move was “over-the-top” and “unnecessary”.
“I can assure them, it’s not,” Mr McGowan said.
“Based on the medical advice — we will move to introduce a hard border closure effective from midnight or 11.59pm on Sunday night.”
Mr McGowan said he would have laughed a couple of month ago if someone asked him whether WA’s border would be closed.
“But unfortunately, this is no laughing matter, this is very serious and we as a Government are serious.”
Commissioner Dawson said airlines would be instructed not to allow non-West Australians to board flights into the state.
“If you board for instance in Sydney, and you are not a West Australian and you don’t have a legitimate reason to come here, we are saying to those airlines, don’t board them,” he said.
“Don’t board them from an east coast city and, if you do bring them, we’ll be asking you take them straight back.”
The Government later clarified people would still be able to leave the state once the border restrictions were in place, but they may not be able to return unless they met the criteria.
Exemptions apply for essential services, FIFO workers
Mr McGowan said there would be some very limited exemptions to the border closures, including:
- Healthcare workers
- Emergency services workers
- Transport freight and logistics
- People with specialist skills not available in WA
- National or state security and governance, and
- Courts and judicial services
Mr McGowan said entry on compassionate grounds may also be granted.
Exemptions would also apply for fly-in, fly-out workers and their families, but strict 14-day self isolation measures would need to be followed when they first entered the state.
“We have worked closely with the resources industry to come to a solution that ensures this important industry can continue to operate,” Mr McGowan said.
“I want to thank them for their cooperation.
Mr McGowan said mining companies had assured the State Government they would be able to continue to operate under the new regime.
He said some had already begun putting in new arrangements for workers who live in other states, including relocating families to WA for the time being.
Further exemptions will also be applied on “specific compassionate grounds”.
“We are living in extraordinary times,” Mr McGowan said.
“I am just so proud of the response by Western Australians.”
Limited new WA cases ‘encouraging’
Western Australia recorded just eight new cases of COVID-19 overnight, taking the state’s total to 400, including two deaths.
Seven of the new cases are from the metropolitan area, with one from the Kimberley.
They are all adults, aged between 24 and 78.
All of the cases have known origins and five of the new cases were passengers on cruise ship.
A total of 56 COVID-19 patients remain in Perth hospitals, with 15 of those in intensive care, but 92 people have now recovered from the virus in the state.
“Today’s new case numbers are encouraging,” WA Health Minister Roger Cook said.
“But we can’t be complacent, we have to continue to put our foot on the pedal.”
Warning on pin-prick tests
Mr Cook said some coronavirus test kits, which a pop-up drive-through testing centre in Albany had planned to use, could be producing false results.
The serological test kits are a blood-based test, which claim to provide results in 15 minutes, but they only test for antibodies of COVID-19.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced a week ago that the pin-prick tests would be rolled out to GPs.
But Mr Cook said people who returned a negative result using those kits could still be infectious.
“These tests under a direction from the Chief Health Officer have now been prohibited for use as an acute diagnostic tool by WA Health,” Mr Cook said.
“This is to ensure that we do not have any false negatives.
“They only go positive after a patient has had an infection for a period of time, so for someone with early symptoms, they could present negative because they have not yet developed the antibodies when they are actually infectious and positive for coronavirus.”
Health authorities have liaised with the Albany clinic to ensure it understood the new guidelines.
PCR testing — polymerase chain reaction testing — is the main method relied upon by Australian health authorities.
PCR testing duplicates the RNA from a sample, usually taken from a swab from the back of your throat and nose, or fluid from the lungs, then checks for the presence of coronavirus.
Who should present to COVID-19 clinics?
- People who have BOTH a fever and acute respiratory infection (eg shortness of breath, cough, sore throat)
- High-risk workers (including healthcare workers and police officers) with EITHER a fever OR acute respiratory infection
- People who have attended high-risk settings where two or more have contracted symptoms
- These settings include: cruise ships, aged care centres, Aboriginal communities, correctional facilities and boarding schools
Patients who are tested should remain isolated at home until they receive their test results.
Major clinics have been set up at hospitals including Royal Perth, Sir Charles Gairdner, Fiona Stanley, Joondalup, Armadale, Rockingham and St John of God Midland.
They are open from 8:00am–8:00pm daily.
In regional WA, a clinic is operating at Bunbury Health Campus from 10:00am–4:00pm daily.
For more information go to the Health Department website.
April 02, 2020 17:32:58