Australia is just hours away from returning to pre-pandemic interstate travel arrangements, with Western Australia set to bring down its hard border with the rest of the country.
WA will reopen to eastern states from 11.59pm on Wednesday, making travel freely permitted again between all states and territories.
Hard border measures have been in place in Western Australia for several months following COVID-19 outbreaks in other jurisdictions.
The reopening comes after Premier Mark McGowan delayed the easing border regulations earlier this year due to rising Omicron cases across the nation.
Travellers into Western Australia – including returning residents – will need to be triple-vaccinated against COVID-19 and have a completed travel pass to enter the state.
WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said he expected an influx of travellers after months of being closed off to the rest of the country.
“We’ve had almost 23,000 applications (for travel passes), so we’re expecting tomorrow will be busy,” he told Perth radio station 6PR.
“It takes between 15 and 25 minutes to basically process passengers off large aircraft.”
The border relaxation comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison and WA-based federal minister Ben Morton tested positive to COVID-19.
In a late-night statement, the prime minister said he was experiencing flu-like symptoms and would be recovering over the next week while working from home in Sydney.
“I had tested myself daily since Sunday, including (Tuesday) morning, with all tests returning a negative result,” he said.
“I took a further test (on Tuesday) evening after developing a fever. The test was inconclusive so I took a PCR test which returned a positive result.”
Meanwhile, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has recommended the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine be used as a booster.
The advisory group said Novavax was recommended for those over 18 when an mRNA vaccine, such as Pfizer, was not suitable.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said since Novavax was first approved by the country’s medical regulator, more than 25,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered as a first dose.
“The Therapeutic Goods Administration is currently considering an application for whole-of-population use of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine as a booster,” Mr Hunt said.
“The TGA and ATAGI continue to review emerging evidence on all COVID-19 vaccines.”
While vaccines are not yet approved for children under five in Australia, US President Joe Biden indicated in his State of the Union address American scientists were working on such an approval.
The head of the TGA previously said approval for under-fives vaccines had been “put on ice” in the US, meaning approvals would not take place in Australia until at least after Easter.
There have been 59 deaths reported from COVID-19 on Wednesday, including 28 from Victoria, 24 in Queensland, five in NSW and two in the Northern Territory.
More than 25,000 new infections were detected across the country, of which 10,650 were in NSW, 7126 in Victoria, 5011 in Queensland, 1053 in the ACT, 624 in the NT, and 868 in Tasmania.
(Australian Associated Press)