Morrison backs WA’s vaccine passport for NSW travellers while lockdowns exist

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has backed Western Australia’s decision to require travellers from states with high-risk coronavirus outbreaks to be vaccinated but made it clear he expected borders to lower once the nation passes immunisation milestones.

People from NSW who want to head west already needed an exemption to do so but under changes to start next week they will also have to show they’ve had at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, if they’re eligible, and return a negative PCR test within three days of travel.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said he’s confident the 70 per cent vaccination target could be reached by Christmas.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

WA Premier Mark McGowan said the measures were tough but necessary to protect his state.

“These criteria are very tough, this hasn’t been done before in Australia … we’ve done it for other overseas countries, we haven’t done it between the states, but I think it’s entirely fair,” he said.

Mr Morrison has been in favour of the idea of vaccine passports or the easing of some restrictions on interstate travel for people who are vaccinated but has faced pushback from within his party.

On Friday, he said he’d welcomed WA’s move but he described it as a “decision for now”.

National cabinet agreed a fortnight ago on a phased plan for easing restrictions across the country, with the first two trigger points reached once 70 per cent, then 80 per cent of the eligible population is vaccinated.

At the 80 per cent point, it is anticipated lockdowns would become rarer and more highly targeted.

“The whole point of getting to higher and higher levels of vaccination, particularly once you go past 80 per cent, is that is when we are saying ‘goodbye’ to lockdowns,” Mr Morrison said.

“Where there are no lockdowns, there should be no borders.”

The latest vaccination data shows WA and Queensland continue to lag behind the rest of the country. Overall, the nation reached a milestone of 25 per cent of eligible people fully vaccinated, with 46.65 per cent having had at least one dose.

The forecast from ANZ’s head of Australian economics David Plank was gloomy, predicting that “state borders are likely to remain closed for months, and our assumed slow opening of the international border from mid-2022 is under threat”.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott expects it will be five or six months until Australia is able to “very substantially reopen”.

“The light is at the end of a very long tunnel,” he told an Institute of Public Affairs podcast.

Mr Morrison has said he’s confident at least the 70 per cent vaccination target can be reached by Christmas.

Leaders went into Friday’s national cabinet meeting prepared to tell NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian she had to consult before moving to relax restrictions once her state reached 50 per cent vaccination.

But afterwards, multiple sources described the meeting as collegiate.

Mr Morrison said it was clear Ms Berejiklian wasn’t talking about moving into Phase B of the reopening plan – supposed to be triggered at 70 per cent vaccination – but rather how the state managed its lockdown.

“She certainly doesn’t want to see an escalation of cases or the virus not being suppressed,” he said.

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