Mark McGowan says NSW will retain ‘extreme risk’ classification to stop State being used as travel gateway

The WA Government will continue to classify NSW as an “extreme risk” jurisdiction to stop West Australians using Sydney as a gateway for overseas travel, Mark McGowan has revealed.

That’s despite the 14-day average of daily COVID case numbers in NSW dropping to 277, well below the 500 cases a day marker which triggered Australia’s harshest border rules two months ago.

NSW on Sunday recorded its lowest number of infections in three months — 177 cases — on the eve of the State allowing vaccinated Australians to return from overseas without the need to quarantine.

From Monday, vaccinated Australians will also no longer have to apply for travel exemptions to leave the country.

WA residents stranded in NSW, however, can’t return home even for even compassionate reasons because of the McGowan Government’s refusal to downgrade that State’s risk rating to “high”.

Mr McGowan again predicted the relaxation of restrictions in NSW could result in a rise in infections and added that he “did not want to encourage” West Australians to travel overseas via Sydney.

“It could mean that under NSW’s arrangements, if we drop them to what’s called ‘high’, people could go out of NSW overseas, come back into NSW without quarantining and then demand to come back to WA,” he said.

“This is the quandary we are in. We don’t want to encourage that because all it will mean is we get spread of the virus before such time as we have high enough levels of vaccination.”

The Premier said he wanted WA to get to a “very high” vaccination level “before such time as we run the risk of people coming from NSW, Victoria or indeed overseas who would spread the virus here”.

“There is the problem. I realise that will cause some consternation but having said that, very few people under either extreme or high risk are coming from NSW,” he said.

Just over 61 per cent of West Australians aged over 12 are fully vaccinated. Mr McGowan is the only State or Territory leader without a roadmap or dates for dropping interstate border restrictions.

The boosters will be Pfizer, regardless of what kind of vaccine a person received originally.Camera IconThe boosters will be Pfizer, regardless of what kind of vaccine a person received originally. Credit: Utrecht Robin/ABACA/PA

From Monday, anyone aged 18 and over who is fully vaccinated and received their second dose at least six months ago can get their booster jab from a State-run clinic with no appointment.

The boosters will be Pfizer, regardless of what kind of vaccine a person received originally. The third shot will help people maintain a high level of protection against COVID-19.

Mr McGowan said the pace at which West Australians get their booster jab would not effect the timing of WA’s border opening, which was not expected until February at the earliest.

Proof of vaccination is not a requirement for travel from “very low risk” Queensland, SA, Tasmania and the NT because that policy would potentially fail a legal challenge.

But Mr McGowan said this situation would change in coming weeks when all States and Territories except WA relax their borders and “live with COVID”.

“Queensland’s dropping its boder shortly to NSW and Victoria, so is South Australia and Tasmania. We expect that they’ll get community spread of the virus probably before Christmas,” he said.

“That will mean that we can put in place the requirement for double dose vaccination once they get community spread of the virus based on health advice.

“We haven’t got the advice as yet and we also need to take account of the lawyer’s advice but obviously, as it spreads in those States that will provide that opportunity.”

The Fort News