Western Australia to End Virus Rules, Keep Borders Closed

Western Australia will remove all COVID-19 restrictions from July 18 but Victoria’s spike in cases means the hard interstate border closures will remain in place.

Premier Mark McGowan on June 22 revealed his government had been planning to reopen the borders as of August 8.

But the outbreak in Victoria, where there has been significant community transmission, has led WA to abandon any border changes for now.

WA will move into phase four of its economic recovery plan from Saturday, removing all existing gathering limits including the cap of 300 patrons overall or 100 per divided space at pubs, restaurants and other indoor venues.

A two square metre rule will continue to apply to indoor and outdoor venues.

Major venues including Optus Stadium will be allowed to operate at 50 per cent of their capacity, meaning up to 30,000 punters can attend events.

Hospitality venues will no longer have to maintain a register of patrons and people will be allowed to enjoy a drink while standing at the bar.

Phase five, set to come into effect from July 18, includes the removal of the two square metre rule as well as all other restrictions on gatherings, paving the way for 60,000-capacity crowds at Optus Stadiums should AFL games return to WA.

But the premier has declined to put a date on the introduction of phase six, which will include the reopening of interstate borders.

“The tentative date was going to be on the 8th of August, but right now, it would be irresponsible of me to earmark that date as our potential opening with the rest of the country,” he told reporters on Monday.

“I would like to give an indicative date today but if I did, it would be against our health advice and quite frankly it probably wouldn’t hold.”

Describing the situation in Victoria as “dire”, McGowan said he would not be pressured into reopening despite calls to do so from the federal government, state opposition, tourism industry and some business groups.

“Given the situation over east, I just cannot allow the infection to return to WA,” he said.

“I will not risk the health of West Australians and the potential damage to our economy which is now rebuilding after the height of the pandemic.”

No new positive tests were reported on Monday, leaving WA with three active cases all of whom are in hotel quarantine.

Michael Ramsey