The West Australia government’s decision to leave COVID-19 border rules in place for almost another two months will give the state enough time to prepare for the new Omicron variant, doctors say.
Premier Mark McGowan has announced the border will reopen to interstate travellers on February 5 and while people won’t have to quarantine, arrivals aged 12 and over must be double vaccinated unless they have a medical exemption.
Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said while WA residents had been living in one of the best places in the world during the pandemic, they had paid the price with isolation.
And West Australians were yet to see a major outbreak of COVID-19, like other states including NSW and Victoria.
Dr Khorshid said while some thought February 5 was too far away, he thought it was a reasonable time frame because it would give the state more time to get to 90 per cent full vaccination coverage.
“People are not going to get as sick and of course we have every chance of being properly prepared for the Omicron variant as well,” he said.
“On those fronts, it’s a very good decision from the McGowan government.”
The state’s double-dose vaccination coverage rate is currently 80 per cent.
WA’s border controls were first introduced back in April 2020, making it more than 600 days that the state has been what Mr McGowan called “an island within an island”.
Residents have been able to live almost entirely free of COVID-19 restrictions, and WA has dealt with just more than 1100 cases – the sort of figure other states might notch up in 24 hours.
Under the rules to be implemented from February 5, there will be testing requirements.
People visiting for six days or more will need to get a negative PCR result within 72 hours of departure and take another test within 48 hours of arrival.
Those visiting WA for five days or less will only have to get a negative test within 72 hours of departure.
Vaccinated overseas travellers will not have to quarantine, but if they are unvaccinated or have not had an approved jab, they will have to quarantine for 14 days.
Transitional restrictions will include a requirement to wear face masks in high-risk areas, while vaccination proof will be needed to attend some large-scale events and venues.
WA Health Minister Roger Cook is urging people to get the jab before the state reopens.