Stricter self-isolation measures and new border controls for WA

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Only people with an exemption will be able to enter WA from Tuesday afternoon – those without an exemption will have to self-isolate for 14 days. File picture

PLANS to quarantine people who cannot or won’t self-isolate and tough border controls are being put in place as part of new measures to try and stop the spread of COVID-19 in WA.

Today Premier Mark McGowan said the government was looking at acquiring some hotels for self-isolation.

“So that we can have places to quarantine people who have difficulty self-isolating or who won’t self-isolate,’’ he said.

He said the state government was looking into turning Rottnest Island into a quarantine zone.

At his own press conference today Prime Minister Scott Morrison said social distancing was a challenge to Australians but something they could not be cavalier about.

“What we saw on the weekend at Bondi Beach, I know would have been innocently done, but negligently done,’’ he said.

“And it’s important that that serves as a wake-up call for the entire country to ensure that they take these social distancing policies very seriously (as) the states are moving quickly to mandate them and enforce them.’’

He said the states would take even stronger measures in particular areas and potentially extend the measures to other areas.

They would also upgrade the measures as necessary.

“But the more social distancing we do, the less severe the economic impacts have to be.’’

Mr McGowan said the new border controls would start from 1.30pm on Tuesday, March 24.

People wanting to enter WA after that time will, unless they have an exemption, have to self-isolate for 14 days.

The new measures will apply to all access points by road, rail, air and sea.

Exemptions will apply to essential services and workers, including health and emergency services, defence and policing, mining industry workforces, flight crews and freight of essential goods, via ports and trucks.

The government has the power to introduce these measures under the Emergency Management Act 2005 – Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan signed an extension of state emergency declaration on March 18, which remains in force until Thursday, April 2.

This includes powers for an authorised officer to direct the evacuation and removal of people from an emergency area or any part of the emergency area and close any road, access route or area of water in or leading to the emergency area.

Section 70 of the Act gives the authorised officer the power to direct anyone who has been exposed to a plague or an epidemic to remain in an area specified by the officer or to remain quarantined from other persons for a period as specified by the officer.

Chamber of Mineral and Energy chief executive officer Paul Everingham said the mining and oil and gas industries brought in revenue for the government to pay for hospitals, schools and essential infrastructure, which had to stay open.

Mr Everingham said fly-in fly-out flights would be curtailed and companies would need to use charter flights and fly staff direct to WA mines and oil and gas facilities.

He said only essential staff, which included 2500 workers from outside WA, would be allowed on WA mine and oil and gas work sites.

Police commissioner Chris Dawson, who under the Act is the state emergency coordinator, said people faced 14 days of self-isolation if they did not make the deadline but he implored them to stay calm and not speed to checkpoints.

Mr Dawson said the Indian Pacific might be taking cargo but it would not be carrying passengers.

There will also be exemptions to the new controls granted on compassionate grounds and where people live near border communities.

Enforcement of the border restrictions will be rolled out with checkpoint stops and arrival cards.

Arrivals will have to show they meet the essential criteria to be granted an exemption.

The new direction will be enforceable by law with penalties of up to $50,000 for individuals.

Mr Dawson said so far no businesses had been fined – he said people were stressed so he had advised officers to deal with people respectfully but firmly.

Mr McGowan said the new border controls, which were about reducing the spread of COVID-19 in WA, had been arrived at after wide consultation.

The measures were designed not to affect essential services, the state’s fly-in, fly-out workforce and the delivery of goods and services to WA.

“I have worked closely with the South Australia Premier (and the trucking industry) to guarantee our transport links can continue in an orderly fashion, so we can get through this extraordinary period,’’ he said.”

He said WA had 30 new cases of coronavirus overnight with those affected aged from 21 to 79 years.

The Emergency Management Act 2005 also outlines roles for local governments such as the City of Wanneroo and the Shire of Gingin, including a local emergency coordinator.

The local emergency coordinator for a local government provides advice and support to the local emergency management committee in the development and maintenance of emergency management arrangements for the area.

Also the local emergency coordinator helps epidemic management agencies to provide a coordinated response during an emergency in the area and carries out other emergency management activities in accordance with the directions of the state emergency coordinator.