Double-vaccinated overseas travelers will be allowed to enter, but domestic visitors must have received their third dose.
Authorities in Western Australia have set a new date for ending its self-imposed isolation from the rest of the country and the wider world. The initial reopening on February 5 was postponed indefinitely in late January, as the eastern states experienced an Omicron surge while third-dose coverage out west remained low.
At a press conference on Friday, Western Australian premier Mark McGowan announced that the state’s hard border would end at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, March 3. While quarantine-free entry will be granted for international arrivals who have received at least two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, interstate visitors must be triple-vaccinated. All incoming travelers are required to fill out a G2G border pass beforehand and undergo a rapid antigen test within 12 hours of their arrival. Meanwhile, the cap on unvaccinated Australians coming in from abroad will be reduced to just 70 per week, with those returnees spending seven days in hotel quarantine.
McGowan cited falling case numbers in the east and the increasing third dose vaccination rate within Western Australia as the main factors behind the decision, and said the hard border could no longer be justified when the virus was already spreading fast at the community level. “Eventually there comes a point where the border is ineffective when you get to high case numbers within the state,” McGowan added.
But the premier said pushing back the date by four weeks had given local residents precious time to get their booster shots. It’s projected that 70 of the state’s eligible population will have received their third dose by the time border controls ease, up from the current rate of 56 percent. He brushed off concerns that the much-awaited reopening would be delayed a second time. “This date is locked in and I cannot foresee a situation where it would change,” he said.
As Western Australia anticipates a sharp rise of Omicron infections in the coming weeks, officials are bringing in new mask rules and restrictions to help reduce pressure on the local healthcare system. Density rules of two square meters per person have been reintroduced at hospitality venues and gyms as well as hair salons. Residents can host a maximum of 30 people inside their homes, while private outdoor gatherings are limited to 200 attendees. Cinemas, theaters, and stadiums must now operate at 75 percent capacity.