'Large numbers will die': Dire Covid warning for Aussie state

Leading doctors in Western Australia have warned of a Covid crisis in rural areas when the virus hits the state.

Australian Medical Association WA president Mark Duncan-Smith says that country patients could die at an alarming rate compared to those in the metropolitan areas when the state borders reopen next year.

"The death rate would be in the hundreds" if an outbreak spread in the regions, Dr Duncan-Smith told Channel Nine.

A general view of Carnarvon, 900km north of the capital Perth in Western Australia,
Regional areas of WA have a lower vaccination rate than the rest of the state. Source: AAP

"We currently have an outbreak in Katherine that is not far from Kununurra. We could easily see an outbreak in Kununurra in the next few days."

Dr Duncan-Smith is particularly concerned about vulnerable Indigenous communities.

Bunbury, located south of Perth, is the only regional area with an intensive care unit in the state.

"Intensive care units in Perth are in 'bed state black' most of the time," Dr Duncan-Smith said.

“If the plan is for the patients to be treated in regional areas rather than being transferred to metropolitan hospitals, they face a higher risk of death, “ the AMA said, as per The West Australian.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said it was vital people came forward to get their vaccines to avoid such a scenario.

"If we don't get people vaccinated, large numbers of people will die," he warned.

Regional areas 'closed off' once borders open

Mr McGowan released the long-awaited roadmap to Covid normal at the start of November, revealing plans to relax its hard border in January or February when the state reaches a 90 per cent vaccination rate for residents aged 12 and over.

However, the ambitious target had some experts warning it could be difficult to achieve, with regional areas of WA hesitant to take up the jab.

Mark Mcgowan at a press conference with Australian flag in background looking serious.
Mark McGowan said areas with low vaccination rates could be shut off when borderz open. Source: AAP

Mr McGowan said regional areas with low vaccination rates would be closed off from the rest of the state once it reopens.

"It is more likely that double dose vaccinated people would be able to come in and out," he told reporters on Friday.

"If you're not double dose vaccinated you won't be able to come in."

In the Pilbara region, which has some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, only one in three people have received two doses of a Covid vaccine.

A report by WA's Auditor General warned some Indigenous communities might not reach the 80 per cent vaccine milestone until August next year, with only 40 per cent of Indigenous people expected to be fully vaccinated by December 2021.

"Only 31 per cent of Aboriginal people are fully vaccinated," the report said.

"Although some metropolitan areas have vaccination rates above 90 per cent, others are at around 60 per cent, and some country areas have rates under 40 per cent."

As of Friday, 83.9 per cent of WA's over-12 population have come forward for their first dose and 72 per cent have received two doses.

NT's Covid outbreak

WA Vaccine Commander Chris Dawson said the Nothern Territory's Covid outbreak highlighted the need to boost Indigenous vaccination rates, with the Government launching a five-week community blitz aimed at boosting vaccination rates among Indigenous people across the state.

It will include going door-to-door in some communities.

"In terms of the Pilbara, it's quite significantly behind," Mr Dawson said.

"I don't want to speculate on exactly when the Pilbara will achieve 80 per cent but we want to achieve it before the new year is out. Whether we can get there will depend on the engagement with the community.

"That means really strong, respectful relationships where you're going to sit down with them, talk to them, explain the misinformation that's about and dispel some of those myths."

With AAP

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