Australia is just hours away from returning to pre-pandemic interstate travel arrangements, with Western Australia poised to bring down its hard border with the rest of the country.
WA will reopen to eastern states from midnight Wednesday, making travel freely permitted again between all states and territories.
Hard border measures have been in place in WA since June last year, following COVID outbreaks in other jurisdictions.
The midnight reopening comes after Premier Mark McGowan delayed the easing of the state border earlier this year due to rising Omicron cases in the rest of the country.
It also comes as WA battles its own Omicron wave, with 1175 infections reported on Tuesday. There are nearly 5000 active virus infections in the state.
The state has also been chasing a high third-dose vaccination rate ahead of the border reopening. On Tuesday, 63.8 per cent of WA residents 16 and over had had three doses, while 96.4 per cent of those over 12 had had two.
Travellers into Western Australia from Thursday will need to be triple-vaccinated against COVID-19 and have a completed travel pass to enter the state. The rules also cover returning WA residents.
Western Australian Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said he expected an influx of travellers into the state after months of being closed off to the rest of the country.
“We’ve had almost 23,000 applications [for travel passes], so we’re expecting tomorrow will be busy,” he told Perth radio station 6PR.
“It takes between 15 and 25 minutes to basically process passengers off large aircraft.”
Travel vouchers will be handed out at Perth Airport throughout the week following the border reopening in a bid to revitalise the state’s tourism sector.
Mr McGowan said $500,000 of vouchers for tours and experiences would be handed out, including 1000 vouchers for international students.
“When interstate and international travel returns in full on March 3, we want to encourage visitors to experience all we can offer while ensuring local tourism operators enjoy the benefits,” he said.
“Western Australia’s world-leading vaccination rates put us in the best position to manage COVID as borders reopen and we safely welcome visitors.”
The border develop came as Prime Minister Scott Morrison and WA-based federal minister Ben Morton tested positive to COVID-19.
In a late-night statement on Tuesday, Mr Morrison said he was experiencing flu-like symptoms and would be recovering over the next week while working from home in Sydney.
Across Australia, there were 33 deaths reported from COVID-19 on Wednesday, made up of 28 from Victoria and five from NSW.
Almost 20,000 infections were detected, of which 10,650 were from NSW, 7126 in Victoria, 1053 in the ACT and 868 in Tasmania.
– with AAP