Coronavirus WA border closure prompts scramble to return before Sunday deadline

Perth 6000

As Western Australia prepares for its first hard border closure in history, many people are scrambling to return before the doors shut.

Key points:

  • WA will shut its borders to stop COVID-19 cases coming from other states
  • The number of cases in WA has been growing slowly this week
  • Mark McGowan says the closure could be in place for six months

The closure officially begins at 11:59pm on Sunday night with restrictions to apply to everyone entering the state — including West Australians — to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Access will be only granted for handful of reasons, including compassionate grounds and essential work.

Blaire Herbert and her husband live in Sydney and had planned to move over to WA in the next couple of weeks.

Ms Herbert told ABC Radio Perth she had a contract for a new job and was looking forward to coming back to her home state to be with family.

How will WA’s border closures work?
WA is closing its borders to the east for the first time in its history. Here’s how you might be affected.

“We’re hoping [the job] will get us through the gate. We’re not coming over visiting, we’re coming for a reason,” she said.

“With corona it’s all falling into a heap.

“Even though we brought our move forward, we’re not sure if we’ll be able to get into the state.”

Ms Herbert said the constant changes in information about isolation and borders were already a strain for the couple, and she did not think it would be possible for them get flights before Sunday.

“Not that I wouldn’t be able to trust family and friends here to pack up everything, but we wouldn’t be able to cope. Mentally, it wouldn’t do us well,” she said.

“We just need some clear responses, then people would be a bit more comfortable and know what they need to do and how they need to do it. Everyone’s in limbo at the moment.”

Coronavirus update: Follow the latest news in our daily wrap.

Canada holiday ends in isolation

For West Australians in quarantine in the eastern states, it has been a nerve-wracking wait to see if they would be allowed home after their compulsory isolation.

Premier Mark McGowan confirmed today a specific exemption had been created for people in this situation, who would then need to undergo another 14 days of self-isolation back in WA.

It was welcome news for West Australian Gemma Stuart, who is in compulsory isolation in a Melbourne hotel after returning from a working holiday in Canada.


West Australian Gemma Stuart had been on a working holiday in Canada when coronavirus shut everything down. (Supplied: Gemma Stuart)

“At first someone tagged me in [a post about the hard border closure] on Facebook — straight away I screenshotted it and sent it to my mum,” she said.

“It’s quite nerve-wracking, I’ve just got back from overseas, there’s not that many friends I’ve made from Melbourne, I don’t have many connections here.

“Once I get out of here, if I can’t get home, I just have to get into another hotel, which is a bit daunting.

“I speak to everyone every day, everyone calls and checks in. Everyone’s keeping their fingers crossed and hoping I’m home on the 13th.”

Escape from Peru coronavirus shutdown

The exemptions were also a relief for Shendelle Mullane and Tim Jones, two West Australians who had travelled to Peru for volunteer work in January.

The pair spent nearly three weeks trying to get home after the Federal Government issued advice to return, finally spending $5,160 each for seats on a charter flight to Sydney.

WA begins to ‘flatten the curve’
The stream of COVID-19 cases in WA has slowed to a trickle in recent days, but there are some big risks if the state limits the outbreak too effectively.

They are now on day four of their compulsory isolation in a Sydney hotel.

“The hard border closures really alarmed us initially until several hours later it was confirmed we’d have a special exemption to return,” Ms Mullane said.

By the time they return home and finish 14 days of isolation in WA, the pair will have spent six weeks in some form of isolation.

“It’s been a very long journey,” Ms Mullane said.

“Fortunately we get along very well,” Mr Jones added.

McGowan’s blunt message: ‘Come home now’

Premier Mark McGowan said the unprecedented hard border closures meant WA was essentially being turned into an island.

WA COVID-19 snapshot

  • Confirmed cases so far: 470
  • Deaths: 6
  • Tested negative: 18,731

Latest information from the WA Health Department

“I want the message to be absolutely clear to any Western Australian over east who is thinking of coming to WA — if you need to get home to WA, come home now,” he said.

“If you are an eastern-stater and thinking about visiting WA, forget about it.

“The quicker we can get through this, the sooner we can get back to normal.”

It’s not clear when the borders will reopen, but the Premier has indicated it could take up to six months.

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