Western Australia will become the first state to enter ‘Stage Two’ of rolled-back coronavirus measures from next week, but not all of the federal government’s framework is being followed.
The state has already implemented most of the federal government’s Stage One measures, including gatherings of up to 10 people outdoors and a “soft start” to getting students back in classrooms in Term 2.
Gatherings of up to 20 people will be permitted in public spaces, including non-contact sports and indoor gyms with a limit of 20 people at any facility.
Cafes and restaurants will also be allowed to seat up to 20 people, although Premier Mark McGowan called for more al fresco dining where possible.
There will also be more opportunities to travel between the state’s regions, with regional borders reduced from 13 to four.
In announcing the new measures, Mr McGowan praised the conduct of West Australians, saying the state now had no evidence of community transmission of COVID-19.
“Western Australians have done an incredible job in stopping the spread of the virus,” he told a press conference this morning.
“Western Australia’s performance has led the nation and the world. We set out to flatten the curve and we have achieved that.”
WA has recorded just one new case of coronavirus in the past 11 days, with the total number of confirmed cases remaining at 552.
Of these, only seven people still have active virus, four people are in hospital and one person remains in Intensive Care.
Playgrounds, skate parks to remain closed
Playgrounds and skate parks will remain closed under Western Australia’s Stage Two measures, marking a deviation from the federal government’s framework released Friday.
Mr McGowan said his government was prioritising measures which would boost the state’s economy and get people back to work as it gradually rolled back coronavirus restrictions.
He also flagged the lack of cleaning of outdoor equipment and potential difficulties with contact tracing those who visit unstaffed outdoor recreational areas.
“The thing about skate parks and playgrounds is that there is very sparse cleaning, if any, and you don’t know who has been there before you, whereas in a café or restaurant, you can trace who has been there,” Mr McGowan said.
“The other thing is if you do everything at once and there’s an outbreak, you won’t know where it came from.”
WA’s hard interstate border closure to stay
Western Australia’s hard border closure from the rest of Australia will likely be among the final coronavirus measures to be lifted, Mr McGowan said.
The federal government’s three-stage framework for lifting restrictions flags interstate travel in stage three, but the Premier’s comments suggest this will not be the case in Western Australia.
Under the hard border closure introduced on April 6, no one is allowed into WA unless they have been granted a special exemption, including residents.
Exemptions include essential travel for health, emergency, transport, courts and judicial services and for national and state security.
Mr McGowan credited the border closure as WA’s “strongest weapon” in the fight against COVID-19.
“Our hard borders have provided us with the opportunity to move quicker to ease restrictions compared to other states which have community spread of the virus,” he told today’s press conference.
Stage Three expected in June
Western Australia will likely implement Stage Three of COVID-19 restrictions roll-back in mid-June, the premier said.
The government will be monitoring the public’s behaviour and any potential rise in case numbers following the start of Stage Two next Monday to determine when to implement Stage Three.
But Mr McGowan said that, all going well, it would be introduced four weeks after Stage Two, indicating an approximate start date of June 15.
The federal government’s Stage Three plan allows for gatherings of up to 100 people.
This includes allowing up to 100 people to sit at cafes, restaurants, pubs and clubs as well as public facilities such as gyms.
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