Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
WA Police at the South Western Highway checkpoint north of Waroona.
Camera IconWA Police at the South Western Highway checkpoint north of Waroona. Credit: Shannon Verhagen/The West Australian, Shannon Verhagen Picture: Shannon Verhagen

There is cautious optimism the Margaret River economy will open up in coming weeks, with the first social relaxations kicking in last Monday.

However, it is also likely South West border restrictions will remain in place for at least another month, if not longer. Premier Mark McGowan was adamant travel restrictions would stay for the foreseeable future when speaking on the issue on Tuesday, despite a steep reduction in new COVID-19 cases and none in the South West.

“In terms of the intrastate borders between the various regions, they’ll be in place now for a considerable period of time,” Mr McGowan said.

“We haven’t yet worked out when they might come down or how they might come down.”

That raised the prospect of travel resuming between neighbouring regions while Perth remained on lockdown, with the McGowan Government determined to prevent any fresh outbreak of COVID-19 spreading into regional WA.

Regional testing has come to a near standstill, with 1938 negative tests as of Wednesday.

New drive-through clinics were announced yesterday for Busselton and Bunbury, with testing in Margaret River touted as a possibility.

Residents mostly rejected last week’s call by Vasse MLA Libby Mettam for a plan to reopen the South West, with many preferring local relaxations while checkpoints remained. But struggling hospitality owners said their businesses might remain unviable, despite talk of mandatory hygiene training as a lifeline to reopen.

Shire president Ian Earl said closed borders could allow greater relaxations without risks to the wider population. He was quietly confident progressive relaxations would allow a semblance of ordinary life while the Government monitored new cases.

“I think that’s the way it will go,” he said.

But Cr Earl did believe a plan was needed for reopening the region because the local economy would be crushed if tourism operators could not plan for future bookings.

“I’d hope the regional borders would be open sooner rather than later, and we’re happy to be guided by the Premier and medical people,” he said. Cr Earl said trade resuming within the lockdown would be a much-needed shot in the arm for the local economy, which was otherwise “dire”.

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