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Premier Mark McGowan to announce today when the WA COVID-19 hard border will fall

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Today, Prime Minister Mark McGowan is expected to set a date when Western Australia’s borders will finally reopen to eastern states and the rest of the world.

Mr McGowan has pledged to set the date in stone once the state hits the 80% immunization threshold for people over 12, which is expected to happen today.

Once the hard border falls, international and interstate travel will resume, with testing and vaccination requirements.

As part of the government’s transition plan released in November, interstate arrivals will need to be double-dose vaccinated, return a negative PCR test 72 hours before departure, and perform an arrival test in WA.

International arrivals would be required to do all of the above, as well as a full 14-day quarantine if they were found to be high risk, for example, if they were not vaccinated.

Some restrictions would be introduced to help manage the spread of COVID-19 in Washington state, including face masks for certain high-risk indoor environments and proof of vaccination for large events, nightclubs and the casino.

Last week, the Prime Minister announced a plan to ‘reconnect’ WA with the world, spending $ 185 million on measures to boost businesses and attract tourists, international students and workers to Western Australia when the borders State will reopen.

The date should be set for late January or early February, the prime minister said, with the goal of achieving 90% full vaccination in the over-12 cohort.

This will be good news for families separated since the start of last year, those who travel regularly on business, and even those who just wanted to be able to vacation outside of Washington state.

Few of those expected the reopening more than the tourism sector, hard hit by the pandemic.

While some businesses have managed to stay afloat thanks to Western Australians vacationing in their own backyards, others have retreated, unable to hang on until international and interstate travelers return.

“A light at the end of the tunnel”

One of the people who has championed their cause during the pandemic is Tourism Council WA Executive Director Evan Hall.

Evan Hall pictured outside wearing a gray polo shirt and sunglasses
Mr Hall says companies have been pushed to the brink by nearly two years of hard borders.(ABC News: Keane Bourke)

Mr Hall described the long-awaited plan to reopen WA as “a light at the end of the tunnel”.

“It’s been a long time coming, especially for these companies here in Perth,” he said.

“They were broken without international or interstate visitors,” he said.

And while setting a date is an important step, it may still be some time before tourism businesses emerge from the COVID-19 tunnel.

Travel agents prepare for two waves

Fiona Prosser’s travel agency specializes in organizing personal and business travel and has managed to stay afloat during the pandemic.

“It was incredibly difficult, however, we were fortunate to have a cross section of the business, so we had some essential business trips and we had resource trips that kept us going.”

Fiona Prosser standing outdoors smiling with her blonde hair blowing in the wind
Ms Prosser says it will take a few months for travelers to regain confidence in coming to WA on vacation. (ABC News: Keane Bourke)

She was hopeful what the coming months might hold for her.

“There is a lot of pent-up demand, we’ve seen a significant increase in inquiries, however, they haven’t turned into bookings yet,” she said.

Ms Prosser said travelers would likely return in two waves once the border reopens.

The first would be people desperate to reconnect with family and business travelers waiting to return to WA.

She said the second weaving would be for people looking to vacation in the west and would likely wait a bit longer to see if WA reimposes any restrictions.

“They need certainty, and we just don’t have it. So I think it will be a few months before people feel confident.”

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Mixed opinions on the reopening plan

But Western Australians remain divided over the impending opening and entry of the virus into the state.

Hide Yabuuchi is desperate to return home to Japan as he has not been able to return for three years.

“We are going to go back to our country, so yes we are looking forward to it,” he said.

A man standing with two little girls on a street
Hide Yabuuchi is eager to return to Japan. (ABC News: Keane Bourke)

And while some fear the prospect of wearing masks again, Mr. Yabuuchi doesn’t mind.

“We have a mask culture at home anyway,” he said.

But others, like Elaine Faldi, are not so keen on reopening, after hearing about the number of people who have died with COVID in other states.

A lady with sunglasses and a flowered top smiles on the street
Elaine Faldi is more hesitant about plans to abandon WA’s hard border. (ABC News: Keane Bourke.)

“I’ve been with Mr. McGowan the whole way. I think he’s really protected us well,” she said.

But she admits the state will have to reopen at some point.

“We have to learn to live with it, that’s how it is.”

Tourism Council calls for a coherent approach

Mr Hall said one of the best things the government could do for the tourism industry was not to back down once it committed to an opening date.

“It is essential that once we open we stay the course, that we are nationally consistent, that visitors to Australia know that it will not be more difficult to enter WA than in any other state.” , did he declare.

“This is what is going to be necessary to reconnect WA … and we are confident [the government is] will stay the course and bring this business back. “

Another important aspect, according to Hall, would be to give people a reason to come to WA and spend their money on tourism businesses.

“The real challenge is to make sure that we have the commercial events, the big sporting events, all the ones that are stuck and that we don’t lose them in the meantime,” he said.

“This is what will bring business back to WA.”

The last piece of the puzzle, he said, would be convincing tours and sports codes that they could plan to host events in Perth.

“This means that they have to be sure that the site will be open and that they will be able to cross the border and come out.”

Perth lost the fifth and final men’s ash test after Cricket Australia decided to move the match due to Western Australia’s COVID-19 restrictions and was forced to trade the 2022 Australian Surf Lifesaving Championships with the Gold Coast, which was due to host in 2023, to provide “planning clarity.”

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