Western Australian Prime Minister Mark McGowan has broken with plans to reopen the National Cabinet instead of opting for stringent border controls underway after the country reached 80% immunization coverage.
Washington State Premier Mark McGowan effectively rejected Scott Morrison’s plan to reopen nationally, saying he would not “deliberately import the virus” by expanding borders once vaccine targets are met.
It comes after New South Wales on Saturday reported 1,035 new cases of COVID-19, a record high, which McGowan called ‘horrific’ at a press conference later in the afternoon .
“The idea that we are deliberately importing the virus into Western Australia by removing the border with a state like NSW would just mean a lot of people would die and I’m not ready to do that,” he said.
Mr McGowan said he would rather wait for higher vaccination rates when asked what he thought of the National Cabinet’s plans to move towards strategies that avoid lockdowns once the country hits the vaccination rate of 70 to 80%.
He pointed out that the 70% rate of double-dose vaccines would leave 30% of the adult population unvaccinated and did not include children who made up 20% of the population.
“We’re going to get there,” he said. “But we will need higher vaccination rates.”
The Prime Minister of Western Australia bragged about his state’s largely COVID-free record during the pandemic and rebutted criticism of his hard border tactics.
“We have the most prosperous economy in Australia.
“We have the most open society in Australia.
“We have kept our export industry, the mining industry, our agricultural industry open and functioning which funds the rest of Australia.”
He argued that he was following the national plan, but then listed a number of restrictions he could impose if needed.
“WA reserves the right to set up controls to ensure the safety of our staff and under limited circumstances we reserve the right to set up locks. It is fully in line with the national plan.
Australia is currently in the phase of COVID-19 removal and will move to phase B on the way out of the pandemic when 70% of those over 16 are fully vaccinated and phase C when 80% are inoculated .
Under phase B, vaccinated Australians returning from overseas will likely have a reduced quarantine period that could even be completed at home, while in phase C all restrictions on vaccinated citizens traveling abroad will be lifted.
Mr McGowan said opening up Western Australia as COVID-19 cases remain high in other Australian states would result in “huge economic dislocation”.
“I think we should be happy with where we are at,” he said.
“If people want to criticize us for funding the rest of the country, being COVID-free, having measures in place to keep the community safe, that’s up to them. “
In response to the Delta outbreak in New South Wales, Mr McGowan touted a range of support measures activated to support the COVID-stricken state.
Nearly 260,000 hospital masks have been sent to hospitals in New South Wales along with some healthcare workers in the western areas near Wilcannia which have experienced an outbreak.
A team of 50 WA contact tracers are also working around the clock to help NSW Health track and trace chains of transmission.