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WA threatens to tighten border controls with SA after cluster of new COVID cases

Western Australia’s premier has flagged harsher border controls, less than 24 hours after outlining a grand plan to reconnect with the world.

Mark McGowan expects WA to soon tighten its border to South Australia, where 18 new coronavirus cases were detected on Thursday.

Authorities are also keeping a close watch on Queensland following the detection of a new local case in the Sunshine State.

“We’re awaiting further advice on Queensland, it’s obviously not quite as urgent as South Australia,” Mr McGowan told reporters on Thursday.

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“But with South Australia, the chances are we’ll toughen the borders shortly.”

SA is already classified as a “low risk” jurisdiction under WA’s controlled borders regime, with travellers required to quarantine for 14 days.

Any upgrade to the risk level would restrict entry to approved travellers.

Queensland and Tasmania are the only states not subject to travel restrictions in WA, which has largely kept visitors out for more than 18 months.

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The premier on Wednesday outlined a $185 million plan to reconnect WA to the world once state borders reopen in late January or early February.

Having faced strong criticism from airlines over its border regime, the government will spend $65 million on re-establishing pre-COVID flight routes to Perth and targeting new direct flights to Germany, India, China and Vietnam.

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With South Australia, the chances are we’ll toughen the borders shortly

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A marketing campaign will promote WA as a safe destination for tourists, international students and skilled workers.

Accommodation support will be offered to international students, while the government will also look to attract “blockbuster international events” to Perth.

Tourism blow

The tourism sector copped a fresh blow on Thursday with Perth overlooked for hosting any Matildas soccer games during the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

A hometown fixture for superstar captain Sam Kerr would have been a major boon for tourism in WA but the national team will instead play its fixtures in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Perth also missed a knockout game with all its five fixtures coming in the group stage.

The Victorian government has offered to host the fifth Ashes Test at the MCG should Perth lose it. Credit: AAP

“I’d love to have every single game being played in Perth. But being a fan of the World Cup … the best games are usually the early games,” Sports Minister Tony Buti said.

Perth also looks increasingly certain to lose hosting rights for the fifth Ashes Test in January due to border complications, with Hobart looming as the replacement.

The reopening of state borders is expected to align with WA achieving 90 per cent full vaccination.

A firm date is set to be announced sometime after next Friday’s national cabinet meeting.

‘Re-build challenge’

Perth Airport said the government’s Reconnect WA package was a down-payment on rebuilding the hard-hit aviation, tourism and international education sectors.

“This package is a great start to what will be a big re-build challenge,” chief executive Kevin Brown said.

“We are in a race with every other Australian state and with other destinations in the Asia region, who are all working to attract international airline capacity.”

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