Restrictions ease possible: Premier

Warren Hately and staff reportersAugusta Margaret River Times
Premier Mark McGowan. Picture Ian Munro
Camera IconPremier Mark McGowan. Picture Ian Munro Credit: Ian Munro/The West Australian, Ian Munro

The WA Government and Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week offered a glimmer of hope that regional businesses might see restrictions relaxed next month — while also contradicting each other on any timetable.

Reacting to WA’s continued low COVID-19 infection numbers, Premier Mark McGowan said if the State “consistently” saw low numbers of infections and no ongoing community spread, there was a chance “some tweaks or adjustments to our restrictions” could be made.

“WA’s response has been remarkable, something we can all be proud of. But we can’t let our guard down,” he said this week.

“We are in this for the long haul. A vaccine is the Holy Grail. But in the meantime, if we consistently see low numbers and no ongoing community spread, it will give us the best opportunity to possibly make some tweaks or adjustments.”

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Mr McGowan said winding back restrictions would rely on medical advice and “very low numbers of (new) infections”. He said the next serious review of WA restrictions would take place “around the start of May” and that the State’s hard border with the Eastern States and the rest of the world was likely to be in place for at least the next six months.

The Federal Government has stuck by the six-month measure, but expanded testing, and development of a Singapore-style virus-tracking app offered the potential for more people to return to workplaces.

Mr Morrison said it would be “many weeks” before National Cabinet would look at winding back restrictions, warning the virus could “take off again” if it was done too early.

The easing of restrictions would be geared towards more workers supporting food and retail businesses.

But the Capes tourism industry was unlikely to see any uptick, with regional checkpoints to stay for more months, meaning the pandemic could trigger a permanent reshaping of the sector, and rationalisation of competing tourism businesses.

Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller said doctors believed the State could “rebuild a sneaky economy behind the virus’ back” — as long as COVID-19 infection rates continued their downward trajectory.

Dr Miller said the success of the WA Government’s initial containment efforts had bought hospitals enough time to prepare dedicated COVID-19 wards and to stock up on personal protective equipment.

“It’s not time to be looking at a whole lot of things, but if they did one or two things, that would be OK,” he said.

“The danger with making lots of changes all at once, things could very quickly get out of control.”

Tasmania illustrated that danger this week after a fresh outbreak of coronavirus in the State’s north-west.

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