It will be months or even a year before Western Australia reopens its borders, the state’s leader has said on the day it was originally slated to welcome interstate travellers once more.
Premier Mark McGowan announced on June 23, when Victoria only had a couple of hundred active cases, that the borders would not reopen on August 8 as planned.
On Saturday, he said it could be a year before they do.
“It’s a long way away. I can’t put a date on it, but it is certainly months,” he told reporters.
“As to whether it’s before the end of the year, as to whether it’s before the middle of next year, I cannot put a date on it.”
“Every time you try and put a date on it, you have to change.”
Western Australia eradicated community transmission in April, but the number of active cases in NSW and Victoria continue to grow each day.
McGowan has previously ruled out a travel bubble with other states which have maintained low cases, and says the eastern states will have to eliminate community spread before he will consider lifting border restrictions.
His strict stance triggered a legal battle with Clive Palmer, who is challenging the border closures in the High Court.
“What I can guarantee you is we won’t bring down the borders before we’re forced to by the High Court, which hopefully doesn’t happen, or before we get health advice it’s safe to do so,” McGowan said on Saturday.
It comes as the further easing of restrictions in the state have been delayed again.
The last remaining restrictions on gatherings within the state’s borders had been due to end last month, allowing capacity crowds of 60,000 at Optus Stadium and the removal of the two square metre rule at pubs and other venues.
But WA’s chief health officer has again recommended delaying the move to phase five, citing concerns over outbreaks in the eastern states.
Premier Mark McGowan says it won’t come into effect until August 29 at the earliest.
“As a nation, we have entered the most dangerous phase of this pandemic,” he said on Friday.
Tiffanie Turnbull in Sydney