West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has apologised to travellers from Queensland for the “heartbreak” caused by the reimposition of WA’s hard border with the state, amid a “very difficult and unpredictable situation”.
WA yesterday announced it was closing its border with Queensland, effective from 12:01am today, following the detection of the highly contagious UK strain of COVID-19 in a cleaner at a Brisbane quarantine hotel.
Following the announcement, WA recorded one of its busiest days at the state’s public COVID-19 testing clinics since the pandemic began, sparked by concern over the UK strain and an influx of Queensland travellers who must now self-isolate for 14 days.
A total of 3,197 tests were conducted at WA’s public COVID-19 testing clinics on Friday — a figure which does not include testing at the state’s private clinics.
Mr McGowan said capacity had been “ramped up” at the clinics and opening hours extended.
The Premier thanked Queensland travellers who had arrived in Perth on Friday, on what he described as “a very dramatic and a very depressing day for many people”.
“I’m very sorry. There’s thousands of people’s lives [who have been] disrupted, it’s awful,” Mr McGowan said.
Many travellers had returned to Queensland after arriving at Perth Airport to news of the changed border rules, the Premier added.
There are 425 people booked on flights from Queensland to Perth today, although Mr McGowan said it was likely the number of arrivals would be lower.
“The vast majority of those will be West Australians returning home,” he said.
Meanwhile, WA’s COVID-19 hotline received a “huge” amount of traffic on Friday, with more than 6,000 calls received.
“The situation is very fluid and very difficult, and I’m very pleased it appears there’s been very few additional cases in the eastern states in the last day, but obviously we’re not out of the woods yet,” Mr McGowan said.
“[The British strain] is something we have to be very aware of and as you saw yesterday … the whole country is on high alert.”
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In response to the British strain, WA has halved the number of international arrivals it receives as a “precautionary measure”.
“It is an appalling situation Britain is going through with this new strain and obviously we’re doing everything we possibly can to keep it out of Western Australia,” Mr McGowan said.
“It only takes one case. [If] someone comes with the virus, out in the community … we can have an outbreak.
“That’s why we’re so cautious and the measures we’re taking are so draconian.”
WA is now conducting genomic testing for positive COVID-19 tests in a further response to the emergence of the UK strain.
“That’s the system the Department of Health is currently installing, so we can find out whether or not we have any of those highly contagious British cases in our system,” Mr McGowan said.
WA recorded one new COVID-19 case overnight; a returned traveller from India who remains in hotel quarantine.
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