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West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has defended his decision to keep borders closed indefinitely, saying his critics should be asking the families of Covid victims if opening the state is a good idea.
On Thursday, Mr McGowan backed out of the plan to reopen borders from February 5, as Covid ravages every other state and territory.
He said reopening the state would be "reckless and irresponsible", given the mounting number of Covid cases.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, he acknowledged there were criticisms of him going back on the plan, but insisted his government was saving lives and jobs.
He pointed out there are over 5000 people in Australia in hospital, with more than 400 in the ICU — none of which are in Western Australia.
He added that since the start of the year, 752 people had died due to Covid-19.
"A lot of people say we should be living with Covid," he said.
"Well, there's 752 people in the eastern states no longer living with Covid. You should ask their families, whether we should deliberately infect large numbers West Australians.
"That's the decision we have made. I know it upsets some people. I know it's an unhappy experience for many people. But it's the right decision for our state."
He warned the current outbreak in the state could still "get away" from authorities, who are doing the best to control it.
On Friday, WA reported seven new Covid-19 cases, with 82 active cases in total.
State searches for ‘missing link’ as community exposed to virus
Mr McGowan urged people to come forward for testing and said there were cases in the state that remained unlinked.
"There is potentially a missing link out there," he said.
Of the cases announced on Friday, three were linked to known contacts of previously reported cases and four were not linked and are under investigation.
Covid cases in the state started popping up late last year, after an unvaccinated backpacker travelled to the state from Queensland in late 2021.
Earlier in January, an infected quarantine worker passed on the Omicron variant to their housemate, making it the first case of transmission with the variant.
First priority is keeping WA safe
No new reopening date has been set for Western Australia, and Mr McGowan pointed out the planned date announced late last year was always subject to change.
"When we made the announcement in December, I said and I was very clear about this, that it would open on 5 February unless there was an emergency or catastrophe," he said.
"And deliberately seeding thousands of cases here in the first day or week into Western Australia, would mean we just follow the exact same route of NSW."
Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese supported Mr McGowan's decision to keep the border closed.
"People were keen to visit loved ones, but the first priority of Mark McGowan has been to keep WA safe," he said.
"People in WA enjoy life almost as normal, certainly compared with NSW."
From February 5, approved interstate travellers will be allowed to self-quarantine but must be triple-dose vaccinated if eligible.
Mr McGowan said in the meantime people are getting their booster shot and getting children vaccinated to ensure the state is as prepared as possible.
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