Opposition leader Mia Davies has questioned whether the state government has done enough to prepare Western Australians for life with COVID-19, as the state moves to relax restrictions in the New Year.
Opposition leader Mia Davies has questioned whether the state government has done enough to prepare Western Australians for life with COVID-19, with the state set to relax restrictions in the New Year.
Those comments, made this morning at a Business News Politics & Policy briefing, comes as Premier Mark McGowan has faced increasing pressure to relax border restrictions with other states and territories.
Victoria and NSW, where COVID-19 has been endemic in the community for months, have now relaxed most restrictions on domestic and international arrivals, with every jurisdiction except WA having outlined a path to reopening before the end of the year.
Ms Davies acknowledged the state's border closures had allowed residents to lived with few restrictions up to now, but questioned whether enough had been done to prepare for an influx of cases when the state reopened.
She said the state's health system already faced significant stress despite there being no community transmission of COVID-19.
"What concerns me greatly is that we have been COVID free, and we have a state that is flush with funds ... yet we do have a health system that is in the crisis, and that's not overegging the situation," Ms Davies said.
"We have a housing crisis and we have a skills shortage that is impacting major sectors across the state.
"If you return a surplus of that magnitude, you expect to have a first-class health system, housing for residents and solutions for those skills shortages.
"That is not the case at the moment.
"Today's announcement will be very important."
Ms Davies also argued the state would need to repair its reputation with the rest of the country given its strict approach to border restrictions up to now.
“It can’t be assumed people are going to flood back to WA simply when the borders are reopened, because we've made a point of telling everyone we've been closed for the last two years," she said.
"It may be that we see exactly the opposite.
"We've earned that reputation of being closed off to the world, and that's a precarious position to be when you're a state that's reliant on exports."
Those comments came as Mr McGowan unveiled the state's reopening plan, which did not feature a firm date for reopening but indicated the state would relax restrictions once 90 per cent of the population is double vaccinated against COVID-19.
Just 64 per cent of people above the age of 12 have been fully vaccinated against the virus.
While the state government had previously alluded to setting the 90 per cent vaccination benchmark, Ms Davies this morning argued the threshold set would be hard to meet given workers covered by mandates, such as police, had only just hit a similar threshold.
"We certainly don't want to throw open the borders and see [the health system] overwhelmed," she said.
"We don't want to do anything that will put people at risk.
"But, in the absence of a plan, there's growing despair... that there's an inability to plan."
Ms Davies later noted the precarious position of the state's hospitals.
While the state government has previously noted most hospitals in Australia have been under pressure in recent years, Ms Davies said existing strain across WA's hospitals was indicative of what will eventuate when COVID-19 becomes endemic in WA.
"These red flags in our health system were appearing well and truly before COVID arrived on the scene," she said.
"We had ambulance ramping, which was like the canary in the coalmine, we had code yellows being called in hospitals on a regular basis, we're seeing enormous turnover in the sector and an inability to replace that.
"I know from a regional perspective there's been some really concerning trends."