McGowan says vaccinations won’t end lockdowns or border closures

WA Premier Mark McGowan has said his state will continue to use lockdowns and border closures irrespective of vaccination numbers in the state.

McGowan said his “preferred position is that we don’t have Covid” even if the state reaches 80 per cent vaccination coverage, indicating that lockdowns and border closures will be the main tools for maintaining a zero Covid policy.

He said the state will only end borders and lockdowns when Australia reaches the last phase of National Cabinet’s four-step plan out of the pandemic, which to date has no specific vaccination target or date.

“It’s better not to have Covid than have Covid,” he said. “I went through this argument all of last year. I had all the conservative commentators, Liberal MPs, National MPs saying, ‘Oh, it’s better to have Covid than not have Covid.

“Haven’t we learnt? Hasn’t the NSW experience taught us it’s better not to have Covid? Look at them, look at NSW. They’ve been through two months of terrible rolling restrictions in which they didn’t go hard enough.

“They’re going hard enough now — well, it’s better late than never. I appreciate the fact that the people of NSW are going through a terribly difficult period, but what they’ve now done is necessary to get it under control.

“So look, our model has worked, I think that’s been verified. Obviously, if we get cases in here certainly we will have to deal with it but we’re doing everything we can to keep it out.”

WA currently has the lowest vaccination rate of any state, but McGowan insisted that zero Covid cases is now “the accepted position”.

“People will criticise, I just want to say, ‘Look at our life, look at all this’ – people out having lunch, having fun, people at work, the office blocks have got the highest staffing levels back of anywhere in Australia, our schools are operating, our economy is going the strongest in Australia of anywhere in the world – isn’t a good thing?” he said.

“I don’t understand what people are saying that’s a bad thing. I think there is a defence from some conservative commentators in NSW of the NSW Government, so they say, ‘Look over to WA, that’s terrible’. I think they need to look closer to home.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently stated that domestic borders wouldn’t be necessary at 70 per cent vaccination levels, while 80 per cent vaccination coverage would mean an end to lockdowns.