Western Australia will enter the next phase of easing COVID-19 restrictions later than South Australia and Queensland, but the scope of many reopenings will be much more liberal for the "hard border" state.
Premier Mark McGowan and Health Minister Roger Cook today announced the next phase of relaxing restrictions would start on 18 May, including opening up hospitality venues, indoor or outdoor fitness classes, and non-work gatherings, all with a maximum limit of 20 people.
This compares to a 10-person limit when South Australia and Queensland enter their next stages of easing on 10 May and 16 May respectively.
Meanwhile, the Northern Territory has been at the forefront of recovery and will also lift more restrictions on 15 May, including on food courts which are slated for much later in the piece within the national guidelines.
The WA Government has announced the state is already in the first part of a four-phase plan after the cautious relaxing of some restrictions on 27 April to allow families and friends to stay connected.
Phase 2 will focus on encouraging Western Australians to return to work, unless they are unwell or vulnerable, so the WA economy can further rebuild in a safe and measured way.
A later date than some other parts of the country was chosen to give businesses and families time to prepare, and includes the following:
- Indoor and outdoor non-work gatherings lifted to 20 people;
- People are encouraged to return to work, unless they are unwell or vulnerable;
- Cafés and restaurants can reopen with meal service (including within pubs, bars, clubs, hotels and casino), limited to 20 patrons and the four square metre rule applied;
- Weddings and funerals, limited to up to 20 attendees (30 for outdoor);
- Places of worship, community facilities and libraries to re-open, limited to 20 patrons;
- Community sports (non-contact) limited to 20 people;
- Outdoor or indoor fitness classes (minimal shared equipment) limited to 20 participants; and
- Public swimming pools can open under strict rules (one indoor pool and one outdoor pool), limited to 20 patrons per pool.
If businesses or premises want to reopen they will be required to complete an official COVID Safety Plan, which the government plans to release soon in consultation with industry.
"Western Australia is ready to take the next step in our COVID-19 recovery," says McGowan.
"The WA roadmap is our plan to start getting Western Australians back to work within a 'COVID safe economy.
"We have been able to get to this point thanks to the efforts of all Western Australians, who have gone above and beyond to do the right thing to help stop the spread of COVID-19."
He says the state's hard borders and its isolation have been an advantage, and urged people to "keep it that way".
"This phased approach allows us to carefully monitor COVID-19 in WA, and ease restrictions in a way that supports our economy, with the smallest risk to the community's health," he says.
"It might not meet everyone's expectation, but we are doing what we can to carefully get businesses up and going that have been devastated by the impacts of COVID-19.
"The resumption of dine-in services at cafés and restaurants is an important step forward in our State's recovery. These are some of the hardest hit local businesses, and I feel deeply for those who have been forced to close and staff who have lost their job."
Phase 2 will also open up more regional travel, with the number of borders within the state set to drop from 13 to only four, allowing:
- Travel between the South-West, Great Southern, Wheatbelt, Perth and Peel regions;
- Travel between the Mid-West, Gascoyne and Pilbara regions (excluding Biosecurity zone);
- Travel within the Goldfields-Esperance region (excluding the Biosecurity zone); and
- Travel permitted within the Kimberley local government areas (the Commonwealth's Biosecurity zone remains in place).
"We understand they have been inconvenient and challenging, and by removing most of the boundaries, I expect many Western Australians will now be able to reconnect with loved ones, and some tourism operations can resume," says McGowan.
"Let me be clear - we will continue to take a cautious approach to the easing of restrictions, based on the best of health advice. This approach has served us well so far, and has seen WA lead the nation in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We will closely monitor the situation over the coming week and if needed, due to a COVID-19 outbreak, we will reassess the commencement of Phase 2."
Phase 3 is set to be finalised in the coming weeks, based on the advice from the Chief Health Officer and will take into account the infection rates across WA. It is expected Phase 3 will be implemented around four weeks from the commencement of Phase 2.
Phase 3 will focus on continuing to build stronger links within the community and include further resumption of commercial and recreational activities, including:
- Further increases in the number of people allowed at indoor and outdoor non-work gatherings, including patrons at cafés and restaurants, weddings and funerals;
- Possible further relaxation of regional travel restrictions;
- Restrictions further relaxed for gyms, health clubs and indoor sport centres;
- Contact community sport (indoor and outdoor) permitted, with gathering limits;
- Beauty therapy and personal care services permitted;
- Auction houses and real estate auctions (not just online as it is currently); and
- Public playgrounds, outdoor gym equipment, skate parks, zoos, cinemas, galleries, museums and concert venues permitted to open, with gathering limits.
The Government announced Phase 4 would be assessed and finalised in due course, with WA's hard border set to be the final restriction lifted.
"Our roadmap has been developed specifically to help get some businesses going, while maintaining strict health guidelines to ensure Western Australians are kept safe," says Cook.
"It takes into account the Western Australian community's world-leading response to COVID-19, that has seen WA maintain consistently low numbers of new COVID-19 cases and success in reducing the spread of the virus.
"It allows for health experts to review the impact of the changes, before we move to the next phase of restrictions being lifted.
"Implementing these phases relies on each and every Western Australian to continue to practice good social distancing and good personal hygiene."
Updated at 6:11pm AEST on 10 May 2020.
Help us deliver quality journalism to you.
As a free and independent news site providing daily updates
during a period of unprecedented challenges for businesses everywhere
we call on your support