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After keeping the virus in check for eight months and finally opening the borders after the COVID-19 situation improved dramatically elsewhere, the holiday season emerged after a year that was far from known , as a feeling of relative normalcy from

With the joy of a Christmas get-together in sight, the recent New South Wales outbreak has taken that from so many WA families in a truly heartbreaking way

It means that many families are now faced with an agonizing decision: spend 14 days in isolation over Christmas and New Years to see loved ones, or postpone those lengthy family gatherings again

In practice, this may not be a big decision for some as the reality of two weeks being kept out of the world is not financially or socially feasible

If the outbreak worsens, there may soon be no choice at all Prime Minister Mark McGowan warns that a hard border could return to New South Wales in a matter of days

“There are five cases from a city of 5 million people,” McGowan said Thursday morning, describing the situation at the time as “very, very low risk”

Within a few hours, that was turned on its head and the Christmas travel plans of thousands of Western Australians were in a mess

Late Thursday evening, McGowan announced that mandatory quarantine for arrivals in New South Wales would return

After the cluster grew dramatically over the course of Thursday, the prime minister said he had no choice but to act

“I understand that these changes will cause frustration and insecurity in some people and will be very annoying for many families looking to spend Christmas together,” said McGowan

“But we must follow the health advice and do what is in the best interests of all Western Australians”

Prior to this decision, there were up to eight flights a day from Sydney to Perth, most of them full or nearby, all passengers mingling in the WA community and a clear risk of the outbreak spreading in the entire region brought land

WA authorities have long warned that the state is most vulnerable to a COVID-19 outbreak with very few internal restrictions, and doctors have warned that social distancing measures are no longer being followed

And throughout the pandemic, the restrictions WA has relied most heavily on to keep the virus from wreaking havoc are border controls

Keeping the virus out has long been a much better approach than having to restrict activity inside WA to prevent the spread of COVID-19

In some areas there has been anger over the strong confidence to close the door on the east, and critics accused Mr McGowan of being politically motivated or covering up a lack of WA’s ability to detect and stop outbreaks – something that NSW does has managed to do with repeated success

“We should have confidence in the ability of the New South Wales health system to deal with these new cases as this is their proven track record”

The anger of the critics also drew Mr McGowan’s approval of the elimination strategy, which contradicts the suppression plan supported by the National Cabinet at the beginning of the coronavirus fight

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But Mr McGowan has long argued that border controls are critical to the success of WA, both healthily and economically

In the days before the recent outbreak in Sydney, the families at Perth Airport had been reunited by the plane load – with tears of joy over the baggage carousels a regular sight

From parents seeing children for the first time since the pandemic to couples reuniting after almost a year, the reopening of WA’s border with Australia’s two most populous states last week had brought none End of heartwarming stories

But tears of frustration or heartache are more likely in airports in the next few days, as the recent reminder of the fragility of the borderline situation in WA is making its way into many families with particularly cruel timing

And for this door to open again, New South Wales will have to pass another 28 days without the virus being transmitted by the community

How long it will take to get to that point is unclear, which means the reunification of so many WA families will be suspended indefinitely

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World News – AU – WA hard frontier return questioned after Sydney coronavirus cluster messed up Christmas plans