21st January 2022 – (Sydney) Australia will remain a divided nation with the state of Western Australia (WA) postponing plans to reopen its borders amid a surge in COVID-19 cases across the rest of the country.
The state of New South Wales reported 46 COVID-19 deaths, its highest number of fatalities since the outbreak, while Victoria and Queensland reported 20 and 13 deaths respectively.
The daily number of new coronavirus cases remains high in these three worst-hit states, with 25,168 new cases and 2,743 hospitalizations reported in New South Wales, and 18,167 new cases and 1,096 hospitalizations in Victoria. Queensland recorded 16,031 new cases, as 855 patients are being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals.
Most Australian states have reopened their internal borders despite the increase in infections. Western Australia was scheduled to open on Feb. 5, but Premier Mark McGowan called a press conference Thursday night to announce the delay given the surge in Omicron cases across the rest of the country.
McGowan said the hard border will stay with new settings from Saturday, and he would not declare a new due date.
Under the new settings, new exemption criteria will be in place, including expanding the list of people exempt from the hard border, with a focus on those traveling into WA for compassionate reasons.
But all the approved travelers will still be required to isolate for 14 days.
“Omicron is a whole new ball game … We can’t just shut our eyes…” McGowan said.
He said a high third dose rate is necessary before the border could open.
“The aim is to get it up above at least 80 percent, perhaps 90 percent,” he said.
WA currently has a third dose vaccination rate of 25.8 percent in the population aged 16 and older.