January 21, 2022 | By Bronwen Largier

In an extraordinary evening press conference yesterday, Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan announced an indefinite delay to the reopening of the state’s domestic border to the rest of the nation due to the emergence of the Omicron variant.

“Omicron is a whole new threat that we can’t ignore,” said McGowan.

“Omicron has changed everything and right now we don’t know the full picture of what Omicron could mean. There is insufficient data to make meaningful assumptions of what it would look like once Omicron takes full effect and case numbers peak over east, except that we know because of case numbers it is a very bad situation.”

The delay to Australia’s reunification comes just over two weeks before WA’s border was due to open on February 5.

“In light of what’s occurred in the rest of the country, having closely assessed the situation over east and listening to the latest health advice, we have reworked WA’s Safe Transition Plan to fit the environment that now confronts us,” said McGowan.

“If we proceeded with the original plan we would be deliberately seeding thousands upon thousands of COVID cases into WA and at this point in time that it is not what I’m going to do.

“It would cause a surge in cases, a surge in hospitalisations and result in thousands of people not being able to work or go to school. And we know that bad health outcomes lead to economic pain. It will cripple our community like it’s doing on the east coast currently.

“It would be reckless and irresponsible to open up now. I can’t do it.”

Instead of reopening the state border in early February, the state will ease travel exemption conditions to allow more people to enter the state for compassionate, medical, diplomatic, skills and national security reasons, in addition to allowing some family reunions.

However, none of these will impact the business events landscape, which will continue to see conferences, meetings and other events occur either without Western Australian participation in person or with only Western Australian attendees.