Mark McGowan holds tough zero COVID stance even when WA reaches 80 per cent vaccination coverage

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Peter LawThe West Australian
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Premier Mark McGowan provides a COVID-19 update.
Camera IconPremier Mark McGowan provides a COVID-19 update. Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

Border closures and the threat of lockdown will be a part of life in WA even when the State reaches 80 per cent vaccination coverage because Mark McGowan says his “preferred position is that we don’t have COVID”.

He said the lockdown of NSW showed it’s “better not to have COVID” and he would only abandon borders and lockdowns as virus suppression weapons when Australia reaches the last phase of National Cabinet’s four-step plan out of the pandemic.

Under Phase D, Australia will open international borders and treat COVID-19 like the flu but there is no target vaccination rate linked to this stage, other than the Premier’s vague suggestion it was “no doubt sometime next year”.

After Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday said domestic borders wouldn’t be necessary at 70 per cent vaccination (Phase B) and the country could “say goodbye” to lockdowns at 80 per cent (Phase C), Mr McGowan dared the Federal Government to argue against WA’s approach.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison wears his face mask during a press conference.
Camera IconAustralian Prime Minister Scott Morrison wears his face mask during a press conference. Credit: Lukas Coch/AAP Image

Asked how many coronavirus cases he would tolerate at Phase C, the Premier on Sunday said “my preferred position is we don't have COVID” and repeatedly reminded reporters that West Australians were already “living a normal life”.

“It's better not to have COVID than have COVID. I went through this argument all of last year. I had all the conservative commentators, Liberal MPs, National MPs saying, ‘Oh, it’s better to have COVID than not have COVID,” he said.

“Haven't we learnt? Hasn’t the NSW experience taught us it’s better not to have COVID? Look at them, look at NSW. They’ve been through two months of terrible rolling restrictions in which they didn’t go hard enough.

“They’re going hard enough now — well, it’s better late than never. I appreciate the fact that the people of NSW are going through a terribly difficult period, but what they’ve now done is necessary to get it under control.

“So look, our model has worked, I think that’s been verified. Obviously, if we get cases in here certainly we will have to deal with it but we're doing everything we can to keep it out.”

Premier Mark McGowan in Northbridge.
Camera IconPremier Mark McGowan in Northbridge. Credit: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

Mr McGowan said he didn’t understand the suggestion that his zero COVID stance would breed complacency in WA, which already has lowest vaccination rate of any State.

“(Zero COVID) is now the accepted position,. People will criticise, I just want to say, ‘Look at our life, look at all this’. People out having lunch, having fun, people at work, the office blocks have got the highest staffing levels back of anywhere in Australia, our schools are operating, our economy is going the strongest in Australia of anywhere in the world — isn’t a good thing?

“I don’t understand why people are saying that’s a bad thing. I think there is a defence from some conservative commentators in NSW of the NSW Government, so they say, ‘Look over to WA, that’s terrible’. I think they need to look closer to home.”

On the other side of the country, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Sunday said it was “not possible to eliminate” the Delta strain completely and her State “have to learn to live with it”.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Camera IconNSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Credit: Dan Himbrechts/AAP Image

NSW recorded 415 new cases and four more deaths, with health officials worried about vulnerable Indigenous communities in the State’s west where 21 new cases were identified.

From Monday, NSW Police will launch “Operation Stay At Home” and impose fines of up to $5000 for breaching health orders after all regional areas were plunged into a seven-day lockdown on Saturday.

Mr Morrison said the state-wide lockdown was consistent with advice the Federal Government had received about the need for a “broader and stronger lockdown in NSW to get on top of the virus”.

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