WA is urging people to stay physically apart, and isn't budging on keeping its state border closed. Image by Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS

Health

Pressure to reopen WA regional borders

2020-05-22 15:37:25

Federal biosecurity zones have “complicated” the process of bringing down Western Australia’s remaining regional borders, as pressure mounts on the state government to further ease coronavirus restrictions.

The state again recorded no new cases of COVID-19 overnight, with only three active cases remaining.

WA’s 13 regions have been slashed to four large areas, but the state government has been grilled by businesses, local governments and the opposition about fully resuming intrastate travel to boost the local economy.

Opposition leader Liza Harvey said businesses were “going to the wall”.

“It seems to me there is a tone of arrogance to the premier … it’s his way or the highway, and the sad reality is our highways are closed,” she told reporters on Thursday.

“We can’t go to Geraldton, Exmouth, Broome or Kalgoorlie and support those regional tourism operators.

“They’re closing their doors, they’re losing their livelihoods.”

Health Minister Roger Cook said if the government could bring down regional borders early then it would, but federal biosecurity zones had complicated the situation.

“The police commissioner, with the state solicitor’s office, is working on the dismantling of those biosecurity zones,” he said.

“That will provide us with a much clearer landscape in order to then release further regional borders.

“The actual process of asking is a formal process, and in addition to that, we have to then make sure the emergency management act takes its place.”

Mr Cook promised people would be given notice to plan for any re-openings.

Meanwhile, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has suggested some states are keeping their interstate borders shut because it is popular, but Mr Cook says her language has been “fairly unhelpful”.

“We’ve got very firm advice from the chief health officer… The interstate borders will stay,” he said.

WA’s chief health officer Andrew Robertson said it would take at least one month to confirm community spread had been eliminated in affected jurisdictions, and until then opening interstate borders was not recommended.

Mr Cook, who has rebranded social distancing as “physical distancing” to encourage people to stay 1.5 metres apart during the pandemic, warned people should not be complacent with the deadly virus.

“Every day that we have no new cases is another day that we grow in confidence and is another opportunity for us to take bolder steps, more ambitious steps.”

Federal Attorney-General and WA-based MP Christian Porter said states would fiercely compete for a share of a revived domestic tourism.

“If you’re too late, you’re going to miss out on getting a really important market and pivoting tourism to the domestic market.”