Premier Mark McGowan has announced WA will open its borders to Victoria and NSW on Tuesday, December 8 — just in time for Christmas.
The changes mean arrivals from NSW and Victoria will not be required to self-quarantine for 14 days from next Tuesday.
It means families who have been divided by the border for up to eight months can finally reunite for Christmas.
NSW and Victoria join Queensland, Tasmania, the ACT and the Northern Territory as “very low risk” jurisdictions.
Arrivals at Perth Airport will undergo a health screening and temperature check, as well as complete a G2G declaration.
Travellers will also have to declare that they have not knowingly mixed with anyone from South Australia.
Anyone who arrives in WA from NSW and Victoria before December 8 will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
The changes, which come into effect at 12.01am on December 8, are pending no further community cases in NSW.
South Australia remains a “medium risk” jurisdiction and people can only enter WA from that State if they meet strict exemption criteria.
Mark McGowan warned that anyone who drives from the eastern states via SA to WA will be treated as if they have been in SA.
The health risk in SA will be reviewed again on Friday, December 11, he said.
The Premier said the changes did not complete freedom of movement as WA would be the only State with a “controlled border” arrangement.
He said that if there was an outbreak in other States or Territories then he would not hesitate to put back up the hard border.
Victoria reached WA’s benchmark of 28 days with no community cases last Friday and Mr McGowan “hoped” NSW would hit that mark this coming Friday.
Mr McGowan said the opening to NSW and Victoria — which were being treated as a single jurisdiction because of their border communities — was pending no further outbreaks.
“I’ll make the point again, we will not hesitate to reinstate the hard border if there are outbreaks over east and we get medical advice to do so,” he said.
It wasn’t known how many people were expected to flood to WA for Christmas, but police are preparing for the inevitable surge, including “lots of tourists”.
While applauding the move to quarantine-free travel with NSW and Victoria, Chamber of Commerce and Industries WA chief executive Chris Rodwell warned the threat of hard border arrangements snapping back into place at the first sign of an outbreak in the eastern states remained a big drag on business confidence.
“The importance of this should not be understated,” Mr Rodwell said.
“The full economic benefits from open borders will only be achieved if businesses and workers are confident that border restrictions will only be reimposed where it is absolutely essential to do so.
“To this end, it is important that the State Government signal its risk tolerance toward future outbreaks in other States.”
Tourism Council WA said the removal of quarantine for eastern states visitors would reinvigorate the aviation, hospitality, and events industries.
“More than 60 per cent of Western Australia’s interstate visitors come from New South Wales and Victoria, with visitors from those States injecting more than $1 billion annually into the WA economy,” Chief Executive Officer Evan Hall said.
“Today’s announcement will allow flights to be scheduled, events to be planned, and tourism businesses to take firm bookings.
“Right now, Australians are booking family reunions, summer holidays and next year’s getaways en masse. Today’s announcement means Western Australia can compete for those bookings.”
Mr Hall also urged an investment in discounted flights into Perth and regional WA to compete with other destinations.
The Premier this morning said the move was only possible due to Victoria’s “remarkable” elimination of coronavirus, which he labelled an “outstanding achievement”.
“NSW and Victoria have done a great job in eliminating the virus, subject to NSW getting to 28 days later this week,” Mr McGowan said.
“I’ve got to say this about the entire country, the National Cabinet has worked, the States have worked — admittedly at our own pace and in different ways — but the measures across the country have worked.
“If you compare our federation with other federations around the world, where there has been no cooperation, no measures put in place — like the United States — our example is the shining light to the world.”
He said the border could have been relaxed from December 4, but it was decided to give more time to allow travellers, airlines and the airport to adjust.
WA put up a hard border in the first week of April and has gone 233 days with no COVID-19 cases in the community.
Under changes that start today, places of worship will be exempt from the 2sqm rule and can operate at 60 per cent capacity.
The Premier said WA remained susceptible to an outbreak as almost all social distancing rules had been removed.
A mandatory contact register system for a host of venues and businesses begins on Saturday.