Australia: Border on the west side closed due to COVID19

The surprise announcement of the Prime Minister of Australia

161ea6affdf623 10 Covid-19, Australia, closed borders, pandemic

Australia will remain a separate state, with the vast state of Western Australia canceling plans to open its internal borders on February 5, citing health risks from the rise of Omicron in the eastern states.

The country announced today 86 deaths due to the coronavirus, based on data from the competent authorities in its states and territories - the day with the highest death toll since the beginning of the pandemic.

Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, has announced the deaths of 46 patients with COVID-19, also its worst day, including an infant, while in the state of Victoria 20 deaths were recorded. However, the decline in hospitalizations in both states did offer hope that the latest outbreak may have peaked.

The surprise announcement of the Prime Minister of Australia

All states and territories, except Western Australia, have reopened their borders based on a strategy that requires citizens to learn to live with COVID-19, despite the record jump in cases. Western Australia was expected to follow next month.

However, Western Australian Prime Minister Mark McGowan made a surprise announcement late yesterday, saying it would be "risky and irresponsible" for them to open, given Omicron's rapid spread.

Instead, reopening will be delayed indefinitely or at least until the triple vaccination rate reaches 80%. It is currently around 26%.

"If we had proceeded with the original plan, we would have deliberately sent thousands upon thousands of COVID cases to Western Australia and at the moment this is not what I will do," McGowan told reporters.

Trying to keep cases low

The decision resulted in Qantas Airways reducing the number of seats on its aircraft in Australia by a further 10 percentage points, to 60% of pre-pandemic levels for the March quarter. McGowan said the original plan to open the interstate borders was based on the less contagious Delta variant rather than the Omicron.

The state, the size of Western Europe with a population of 2,7 million, was cut off for months from the rest of the country and the outside world, taking advantage of its isolation to keep cases low.

There are only 83 active cases in the state, compared to 550.000 for the country as a whole and only a few of them are from Omicron.

The decision is likely to anger Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has long encouraged states to open their borders and learn to live with the virus.

Now visitors should be triple vaccinated

"I know a lot of people in Western Australia this morning will be very frustrated and ask 'if not now, when?'" Federal Government Treasury Secretary Josh Friedenberg told Sky News.

Some travel restrictions in Western Australia will change on February 5, such as how many people will be allowed to enter it for personal reasons, although they will still have to be quarantined for 14 days.

The original plan was to allow double-vaccinated travelers from other states and abroad to enter without quarantine. Now visitors should be triple vaccinated.

Cases have risen in the rest of the country in recent weeks, overwhelming hospitals and disrupting supply chains due to illness or staff shortages.

Source: RES-EAP