The State Government says it is now time for “Western Australians to really shine” as the economy kicks back into gear under eased coronavirus restrictions.
Premier Mark McGowan declared “business is back — in a COVID-safe way”, while officially marking the introduction of phase two in the roadmap to reopen the state.
People in WA can now gather in groups of up to 20 and restaurants, cafes and bars can offer dine-in meals to up to 20 customers at a time if strict distancing measures are followed.
Public pools, libraries, places of worship and other community facilities can also re-open under similar conditions.
WA Health Minister Roger Cook said the relaxations marked an opportunity for the state to lead the nation by example.
“To demonstrate to the rest of Australia how we go about reopening our economy, how we go about returning to our cafes and pubs, and how we go about actually re-energising the community,” Mr Cook said.
No new coronavirus cases in WA
WA has again reported no new cases of COVID-19, leaving the total confirmed cases at 557.
A total of 545 people have recovered from the virus, representing more than 98 per cent of infections.
Just three active cases remain in the state, with one of those in hospital.
“Today is a great opportunity for Western Australians to really demonstrate those great qualities and strengths which has led us to this situation — the practising of good social distance, personal hygiene and making sure we follow all the guidelines,” Mr Cook said.
“The only reason why we are in this position today is because of the work of the community, embracing all the measures that have been in place.”
Mr Cook urged people to continue to socially distance as businesses reopened, in particular people who planned to meet up with others who were not from the same household.
Back to ‘more normal’ life
Mr McGowan said it was an exciting day for West Australians who could get back to a “far more normal life” in a “COVID-safe way”.
“We are now reopening large parts of our economy, getting people back to work, reopening many social opportunities, allowing more people to together, getting more elective surgery in place and bringing down many of the regional borders,” Mr McGowan said.
“I hope Western Australians embrace these new opportunities.”
Regional boundaries have now been reduced from 13 to just four.
School attendance is again compulsory from today and non-contact community sport and fitness classes with minimal shared equipment can also resume for groups of 20 or less.
State borders to stay shut
Mr McGowan said he hoped further easing of restrictions could be put in place “sooner rather than later”.
But he said opening WA’s interstate border was still not an option for now, rejecting lobbying from the New South Wales Government.
Mr McGowan said if the border with the east remained in place, it would allow for more travel restrictions to be eased within WA.
The Premier urged all West Australians to travel within their region and support local business and tourism.
“It’s a great opportunity to see parts of Western Australia that you’ve never seen before,” Mr McGowan said.
He said just a handful of criminal charges had been laid to date relating to the pandemic.
“28 people have been summonsed, 17 have been arrested, eight juveniles have been cautioned, 90 infringements have been issued and 10 matters remain under investigation,” Mr McGowan said.
“[They] include breaching quarantine, regional travel restrictions and prohibited gatherings.”
Yoga classes resume in studio
Tamara Graham teaches yoga at a studio in Claremont and this morning she ran her first in-person class since coronavirus restrictions forced her to close her studio.
She said her clients were eager to return to their routines and she was “incredibly excited” to welcome them back.
“It’s been challenging and especially hard for people who’ve felt like they’ve been stuck at home,” Ms Graham said.
“A lot of people have been homeschooling and I think they’ve really missed their sanctuary that we feel that we have here.”
Having been forced to rework her business to include online classes, Ms Graham believed it was now better placed to succeed in a post-COVID-19 environment.
“Everyone got into the groove of online … to see our community all around the world was so heartwarming and so uplifting,” she said.
“I definitely don’t think we’re going to go back, I think there has been fundamental change.”
‘Not a single beer has tasted better’
After nearly two months of closure, patrons were excited to be back at the heritage-listed Guildford Hotel.
Punter Colin McGillivray said WA had done well as a state and it was about time people were allowed back to cafes and pubs.
His friend Corey Lopdell said he had missed his regular visits.
“The last seven or eight weeks, it’s been odd not being able to come,” he said.
But not all businesses believed it was viable to open on Monday despite the eased restrictions.
The Australian Hotels Association of WA said almost 60 per cent of its members would not be reopening their venues for dine-in service after 330 businesses responded to a survey.
However, more than 80 per cent of them said they would reopen if the maximum capacity was relaxed to allow 20 patrons per separate area.
Libraries urged to reopen
The WA Government has encouraged local governments to reopen libraries as quickly as possible under phase two of eased COVID-19 restrictions.
The State Library reopened this morning and, in line with Government advice, will allow 20 people to visit at any one time, with each visitor allowed to stay for up to an hour at a time.
Culture and Arts Minister David Templeman said the sooner libraries reopened the better for communities.
“This is a home to so many, many people and they come here for a whole range of reasons,” he said.
“It’s safe, it’s a place where they can learn, it’s a place where they can research, it’s a place where they can contemplate. Those are important aspects of our community lives.”