West Australians in NSW are being warned the window to return home on compassionate grounds will soon close as tougher restrictions loom.
NSW on Wednesday recorded a daily high of 633 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and three deaths, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian admitting the worst is yet to come.
WA this week tightened its controlled border regime, demanding arrivals from NSW provide a negative test and prove they have had at least one vaccine dose.
It will be a future requirement for any states and territories classified as “high risk” after recording an average of more than 50 daily community cases.
NSW is on track to enter the “extreme risk” category, restricting entry to Commonwealth, state and specialist officials and forcing them to enter hotel quarantine for 14 days.
The trigger point for jurisdictions to enter that category is an average of more than 500 daily local cases over a period of between five and 14 days.
Premier Mark McGowan on Wednesday said there would be no exemptions under compassionate grounds once the extreme risk threshold was reached.
“If you are someone who wanted to come home, who went to NSW over the course of this year and who has compassionate grounds for coming home, get yourself vaccinated, get tested and get on a flight now,” he told reporters.
“The window will close if we go to extreme risk for NSW.”
Mr McGowan said WA had provided an opportunity for West Australians in NSW to return home under compassionate grounds if vaccinated, but “if they choose not to and the window closes, that will have been their choice”.
“If we go to extreme risk, that would mean that people coming in from NSW would be restricted right back to those people we can’t essentially block under the constitution,” he said.
“That is, federal bureaucrats on federal business, Defence officials and Commonwealth parliamentarians, but there would be strong restrictions on how those people can move around the community.
“Very sad, very difficult, but that’s basically the reality we face in relation to NSW now.”
WA is the latest state to strike an in-principle deal with the federal government for a 1000-bed quarantine facility, likely to be built at Jandakot Airport.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said the WA facility was expected to be running at half-capacity by March next year.
But Mr McGowan labelled that target “optimistic”, citing high demand for housing which has left the state facing skills shortages.
“In my experience in the current building market, it takes a while to build things,” he said.
Mr McGowan meanwhile said he hadn’t been informed that a planeload of detainees had been moved overnight from a facility in western Sydney to the Yongah Hill immigration detention centre in Northam, northeast of Perth.
Both facilities are controlled by the Commonwealth.
“Certainly, it would be nice if they informed us,” he said.
WA is monitoring three active cases, all in hotel quarantine.