Low-vaxxed WA regions could be closed off

·2-min read

West Australians who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in vulnerable remote areas could find themselves subject to localised travel bans.

Vaccination rates in regional WA have remained stubbornly low, particularly in the Pilbara where just one in three people have received two doses.

The slow progress is particularly concerning given the Pilbara is home to a number of remote Aboriginal communities.

WA is looking to reopen its interstate borders in late-January or early-February, subject to the state achieving a 90 per cent full vaccination rate.

But Premier Mark McGowan says localised restrictions could be introduced in regions such as the Pilbara unless the take-up improves.

"Those regions that aren't at high levels of vaccination, we'll have to put in place special rules around them," Mr McGowan told reporters in Karratha on Friday.

"It's most likely going to be that only people who are double-dose vaccinated will be able to come into those regions.

"If you leave the region and you're not double-dose vaccinated, you won't be able to come back. That's basically the rule we have to work towards."

About one in three Aboriginal people are fully vaccinated across WA.

Authorities are keeping a close eye on communities in the state's north, particularly in light of the growing outbreak in the Northern Territory.

Police Commissioner and vaccine commander Chris Dawson said there were people who had recently travelled from WA to Katherine, the epicentre of the NT outbreak, to attend a funeral. They are isolating and being tested.

WA Health on Friday said it had implemented a wastewater surveillance program in the East Kimberley in response to the evolving situation, with samples to be collected at Kununurra and Halls Creek.

The government has also launched a five-week community blitz aimed at boosting vaccination rates among Aboriginal 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."

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