Isolated WA eyes February border reopening

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Western Australia will wait until as late as early February to rejoin the rest of the nation in opening up in a move the premier insists will save hundreds of lives.

Unveiling the state's long-awaited border transition plan on Friday, Mark McGowan did not set a specific reopening date but said controls would be eased once the state achieved 90 per cent vaccination for people aged 12 and above.

That threshold, which requires another 250,000 West Australians to get vaccinated against COVID-19, is expected to be reached by late January or early February.

A specific reopening date will be locked in once the state achieves 80 per cent vaccination, expected in the first half of December.

"I acknowledge some people will be frustrated. They may not be able to be reunited with family from New South Wales or Victoria over Christmas," the premier told reporters.

"But as difficult as it is, it is for the right reasons."

Once the borders reopen, interim restrictions will come into effect.

Face masks must be worn in high-risk indoor settings including public transport, hospitals and aged care facilities and entry to remote Indigenous communities will remain restricted.

Proof of vaccination will be required to attend large events with crowds of more than 1000 people as well as nightclubs and the casino.

"Once we set that date, it will be locked in," Mr McGowan said.

"But if we don't, on that date, reach the 90 per cent double-dose vaccination, that means there will be further public health social measures put in place.

"That would mean restrictions on venues, on workplaces, restrictions when it comes to masks, all those sorts of things that we're desperately trying to avoid."

Modelling released by the WA health department showed there would be a significant reduction in cases, hospitalisations and deaths as a result of reopening at 90 per cent vaccination.

"The difference in easing border controls at 90 per cent rather than 80 per cent is 200 West Australian lives are saved," Mr McGowan said.

"The differences are stark. They cannot be ignored, nor can the benefits."

Entry to WA is currently highly restricted to people from Victoria, the ACT and NSW.

From the transition date, interstate travel will resume but all arrivals will be required to be fully vaccinated and return a negative test.

Quarantine will be scrapped for international travellers but only those who are fully vaccinated.

Mr McGowan has not ruled out restricting travel between regions should vaccination rates be insufficient outside the metropolitan area.

This is likely to take the form of unvaccinated travellers being prevented from entering certain regions.

Low vaccination rates among Aboriginal people in regional WA remain a particular concern. In the Kimberley, just 25 per cent of the Indigenous population have had two doses and in the Pilbara the rate is just 13 per cent.

Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said health workers would go door to door in those communities to combat what he described as "a lot of misinformation".

"I'm bluntly saying there are certain parts of the state where, unless something changes, there will almost without doubt be restrictions," he said.

Opposition Leader Mia Davies said businesses facing staff shortages and competing for tourists still faced a lack of certainty.

"The premier has had nearly two years to prepare and plan to reopen Western Australia to the rest of the world, but what we see here is a skeleton of a roadmap," she said.

The Australian Medical Association and Chamber of Commerce and Industry backed the government's caution, while the hospitality industry welcomed bars and restaurants being able to operate at full capacity over summer.

Mr McGowan rejected criticism that WA was acting against the national reopening plan, saying NSW and Victoria had "ignored every agreement".

"I'm not going to adhere to some set of rules that's going to result in 200 people dying," he said.

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