Hundreds of West Australians have heeded a call to return from coronavirus-plagued NSW ahead of restrictions being further tightened.
NSW on Thursday recorded 681 new local cases and one death, with the virus continuing its spread through regional areas.
Premier Mark McGowan has confirmed NSW will be reclassified as “extreme risk” within WA’s controlled-border regime in coming days.
This will restrict entry to Commonwealth, state and specialist officials and force them to enter hotel quarantine for 14 days.
Arrivals from NSW are already required to prove they have had at least one vaccine dose under the rejigged “high risk” category.
There will be no exemptions under compassionate grounds for returning West Australians once the extreme risk threshold is reached.
Mr McGowan says at least 400 West Australians have returned home from NSW in recent days.
“The trajectory that NSW is now on is dire. It’s a crisis,” he told reporters.
“We had the case come in (from NSW) when they had very low numbers back in June … we had to lock down to crush and kill it and that cost our state tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars.
“I don’t want that to happen again. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.”
The trigger point for jurisdictions to enter the extreme risk category is an average of more than 500 daily local cases over a period of between five and 14 days.
Victoria could soon enter the high risk category, which is triggered by states recording an average of more than 50 daily community cases.
Mr McGowan said other states and territories were paying the price for inaction by the NSW government, with the virus leaking beyond borders.
“It’s frustrating as hell to me that we’re going through this,” he told parliament.
NSW’s weak leadership
“We are all paying the price, the entire country is paying the price because the NSW government didn’t do what they should have done back in June and refused to do it for two months despite so many people telling them what to do.
“Because they were divided and they weren’t showing the strength of leadership they had to at their moment of truth.
“It is one of the greatest public policy failures I’ve seen in my lifetime of any government in Australia. It’s just appalling.”
More than 100 evacuees from Afghanistan are set to arrive in Perth on Friday following the Taliban takeover of Kabul.
They will enter quarantine at the Hyatt hotel in Perth, where floors have been cleared to host the Australians and Afghan visa-holders.
One in four West Australian adults is now fully vaccinated, but the figure is just 7.9 per cent for those in WA’s remote communities.
“That is alarmingly low. We have to increase our efforts to make sure that we can improve it,” Health Minister Roger Cook told parliament.
WA is monitoring three active cases, all in hotel quarantine.