Western Australia reopens its borders: What you need to know before you fly


Western Australia has finally opened its borders to all vaccinated travellers after 697 days of being closed to the world.

Perth Airport is set to be buzzing with emotional reunions as the first arrivals touch down just moments after midnight (3am AEST), reuniting families and friends. 

The state closed its borders on April 5, 2020. In the past 23 months, WA existed as a hermit state, with businesses forced to close from a lack of tourists and foreign staff. 

Families grieved a forced separation from loved ones in other states and abroad. 

While there were some compassionate exemptions made within that time, they were very few and far between.  

Western Australia's border is reopening after almost 700 days. Pictured are theatre patrons in Perth

Western Australia’s border is reopening after almost 700 days. Pictured are theatre patrons in Perth

A passenger with a G2G Pass and a travel exemption has it checked on arrival at Perth Domestic Airport in February 2021. The border reopens to all vaccinated travellers on Thursday, March 3

A passenger with a G2G Pass and a travel exemption has it checked on arrival at Perth Domestic Airport in February 2021. The border reopens to all vaccinated travellers on Thursday, March 3

In a lengthy post on WA Premier Mark McGowan’s Facebook page late on Wednesday night, he acknowledged the hard border had greatly affected many people but insisted it was necessary.

‘The hard border was never about politics, and it was definitely never about the silly notion of secession (from the rest of Australia),’ he said.

‘It was about the value we placed on the lives of Western Australians, and the lengths we were willing to go to in order to protect them.

‘It had been over a hundred years since Western Australia last had a hard border to keep out the Spanish Flu. 

‘Putting one in place was not something I thought I would ever have to do as Premier.

‘It’s something I hope no Premier ever has to do again,’ Mr McGowan wrote. 

WA was initially supposed to reopen on February 5 when double-dose vaccination rates in the state reached 90 per cent. 

But this was stopped by Mr McGowan due to the outbreak of the Omicron strain of Covid-19.  

About 5,000 people will arrive on Thursday on 22 domestic flights and five international flights, with tens of thousands expected to follow in coming weeks.  

But with West Australians also able to leave the state, the reopening is expected to have a negative net impact on tourism as more locals leave than visitors arrive. 

Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan (pictured) has defended his state's almost two years-long hard border closure

Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan (pictured) has defended his state’s almost two years-long hard border closure

Mr McGowan said WA’s reputation had not been dented by 697 days of hardline border restrictions.

‘Our reputation will be as the safest jurisdiction in the world, that handled Covid the best in the world,’ he told reporters.

Mr McGowan said the approach had been further vindicated by new figures showing WA’s domestic economy grew by a nation-high 6.6 per cent last year.

But the premier faces growing backlash over strict ‘level two’ statewide public health restrictions that come into effect from Thursday.

Children as young as eight will be required to wear face masks in public, while home gatherings are limited to 10 people under rules expected to remain for at least a month.

Though WA's border reopens on Thursday, March 3, some new restrictions are being brought in at the same time. Pictured is a staff member pouring a drink in a bar while wearing a face mask

Though WA’s border reopens on Thursday, March 3, some new restrictions are being brought in at the same time. Pictured is a staff member pouring a drink in a bar while wearing a face mask

A passenger with a travel exemption has his G2G Pass checked on arrival at Perth Domestic Airport on February 5, 2021. The border reopens to all vaccinated travellers on Thursday, March 3

A passenger with a travel exemption has his G2G Pass checked on arrival at Perth Domestic Airport on February 5, 2021. The border reopens to all vaccinated travellers on Thursday, March 3

New capacity limits also threaten the viability of some larger hospitality venues and events, with live music venue Freo Social announcing it will close until the restrictions are lifted.

Artists such as Missy Higgins, Birds of Tokyo and Jimmy Barnes, have expressed doubts they can perform in WA due to capacity limits. 

And legendary Australian rock band Midnight Oil have slammed Mr McGowan’s tough Covid rules. 

Rock band Midnight Oil have slammed Western Australia's concert capacity limit, which has led to them cancelling a concert in the state. Pictured is Midnight Oil singer Peter Garrett

Rock band Midnight Oil have slammed Western Australia’s concert capacity limit, which has led to them cancelling a concert in the state. Pictured is Midnight Oil singer Peter Garrett

In a statement, the band said: ‘Western Australia announced that outdoor concerts crowds are capped at only 500 people for at least the next 4 weeks.

‘As such our show at Nikola Estate on March 26, and basically every other big gig in WA this month, will not be able to proceed as planned.’ 

Mr McGowan on Wednesday announced a further $72million in compensation, including grants of up to $50,000 for businesses facing reduced turnover.

NEW RESTRICTIONS IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA 

From 12.01am on Thursday:

Home gatherings are limited to 10 people

Weddings and funerals in the outdoor area of a private home can have up to 150 people with the 2 sqm rule

Masks for children in Years 3 to 6 added

Major venues with forward-facing seats such as Optus Stadium capped at 50 per cent

All public outdoor events in WA will be capped at 500 people

Aged care and disability services will be restricted to two visitors per resident each day

He acknowledged the new rules would not be tightly policed but said there had been high levels of compliance during the pandemic.

WA recorded 1,770 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday as the state prepares to both reopen its borders and implement tough new public health restrictions.

Sixteen people are in hospital but none are in intensive care. The state now has almost 7,000 active infections.    

WA’s health system has moved to ‘red alert’ – the second highest level – reflecting widespread Covid-19 transmission.

Healthcare workers across all clinical areas will be required to wear N95 face masks, while there will be greater use of telehealth for outpatient services.

Fewer category two and three elective surgeries will be performed at both public and some larger private hospitals across the next month and there will be greater use of rapid antigen tests.

Public hospital visits will be further restricted, although exemptions may be granted on some family and compassionate grounds.

The only remaining level is black alert, indicating the system is at capacity.

Rehabilitation centre Shalom House meanwhile revealed it had entered lockdown after 74 positive cases were detected at the Swan Valley facility.

In a Facebook post, the centre indicated none of its cases was severely unwell.

Almost two-thirds of eligible West Australians have now received their third vaccine dose but the number is below 30 per cent for Indigenous people in regional areas.

Health staff will fly to the Kimberley, Pilbara, Midwest and Goldfields in coming weeks to bolster a vaccination drive in those regions. 

Perth has just emerged from its hottest summer on record and WA is still grappling with a food supply crisis caused by flood damage to the rail link to South Australia and the east coast. 

A passenger (pictured left) with a travel exemption from Adelaide has her G2G pass checked by a Western Australian police officer (right) on November 14, 2020. The border reopens to all vaccinated travellers on Thursday, March 3

A passenger (pictured left) with a travel exemption from Adelaide has her G2G pass checked by a Western Australian police officer (right) on November 14, 2020. The border reopens to all vaccinated travellers on Thursday, March 3

Western Australia is reopening it's border at 12.01am on Thursday, March 3. Pictured is a shop in Perth

Western Australia is reopening it’s border at 12.01am on Thursday, March 3. Pictured is a shop in Perth

Mr McGowan’s Labor Party won a landslide victory in the WA state election a year ago, taking 53 out of 59 seats, in what was seen by many as a referendum on his handling of the pandemic.  

But he was heavily criticised for cancelling the planned reopening of the state’s borders on February 5 with just 16 days notice.

Dr Omar Khorshid, the head of the Australian Medical Association, said the premier was a ‘one-trick pony’ and that delaying the reopening was a dangerous decision.  

It led to a massive drop in Mr McGowan’s polling numbers, though he still in positive territory.

His approval rating of 91 per cent in September 2020 dropped to 64 per cent by February 2022, according to the People’s Voice poll.

WHAT WESTERN AUSTRALIA’S BORDER FINALLY REOPENING MEANS FOR YOU:

Western Australia’s border restrictions will be lifted on Thursday, March 3.

Interstate arrivals with three Covid vaccine shots will not have to quarantine upon arrival.

Both interstate and international travellers will need to complete a G2G pass before entry and take a rapid antigen test within 12 hours of arrival.

International arrivals can enter WA if they comply with the Commonwealth Government’s border and biosecurity requirements.

Returning unvaccinated Australians from overseas will have to spend a week in hotel quarantine.

Further level one Covid restrictions will be put in place in areas with high virus transmission.

The indoor mask mandate will be extended state-wide.

The one person per two square metre rule was implemented in hospitality, fitness, entertainment venues, beauty services and places of worship from February 21 in the Perth, Peel and the South West, Great Southern, Wheatbelt and Pilbara regions.

Theatres, cinemas and stadiums can have 75 per cent capacity and nightclub crowds are capped to 500 people.

Drinking while standing and dancing will still be allowed.

Gatherings at homes will be limited to 30 people and outdoor gatherings at 200 residents.

Hospitals and aged care homes will be limited to four visitors a day. Exemptions will be made for compassionate reasons.

Workers will be able to go into the office.

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