Western Australia will reopen almost all intrastate borders in time for this weekend’s WA Day public holiday, while four new coronavirus cases have been confirmed.
The restrictions will lift on Friday, but the Kimberley region, parts of the East Pilbara and the Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku will remain off limits to protect vulnerable remote indigenous communities.
The areas, including the tourism hotspot Broome, have been declared federal biosecurity areas.
The state government has applied to the Commonwealth to have the declarations lifted on June 5, a fortnight earlier than anticipated.
“At that point in time, parts of the Kimberley will be open, potentially with the exception of the remote Aboriginal communities,” Premier Mark McGowan told reporters on Monday.
Accommodation and restaurant bookings were immediately snapped up when most regional borders were reopened and the dining patron limit was doubled to 20 last week, but the state’s north and Goldfields region remained closed to Perth residents.
Northern tourism businesses rely on travellers from the south seeking warmer climes during winter.
Mr McGowan said he understood they had “been through hell”.
“They need our support now more than any time before.”
The state government remains adamant the interstate border will remain closed for months.
“The interstate border will stay,” Mr McGowan said.
“It’s a small inconvenience … it won’t be forever.
“Our hard borders with the east and our isolation have worked to our advantage and we must keep it that way for now.”
The premier said lawyers believed the state government’s prospects fighting Clive Palmer’s planned High Court challenge to the border closure were “very good” as it was for health reasons.
“People like Mr Palmer don’t want to accept it, don’t want to be told what to do,” Mr McGowan said.
He said the four new COVID-19 cases, after a streak of zero-case days, showed restrictions need to be lifted carefully.
The new cases are a Victorian family who returned from Doha on May 17 and have been quarantining in a hotel.
They bring WA’s active cases to six, all in the metropolitan area.
Mr McGowan said Phase Three restriction-easing plans would be announced in coming days.
“It’s my hope we will then be able to roll out Phase Three as soon as possible.”
WA has resumed non-contact sports but playgrounds remain closed.
The WA Liberals have backed the Australian Hotels Association’s call to remove the four square metre rule in pubs and restaurants, and raise the patron limit to 100.