A top doctor believes West Australians should start wearing masks in public to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 after the state border opens next week.
Australia Medical Association WA president Dr Andrew Miller said the state needs to prepare itself in case a wave of coronavirus is brought in from incoming travellers.
Western Australia, which has not had a case of community transmission for six months and 23 days, has banned travellers from any state since April 11.
Dr Miller wants West Australians to start wearing masks while commuting and attending large public events to make the state ‘COVID fit’.
‘Our community needs to get ready, COVID fit, for the occasional outbreak,’ he told The West Live podcast.
‘(Get) used to wearing masks on public transport. If you have any sign of a respiratory infection… obviously, get tested but if it’s just a cold then by all means (wear a mask).
Dr Andrew Miller wants people in WA to start wearing masks to prevent COVID-19. Pictured: Apple staff speak with customers wearing face masks at the Perth store in May
‘I think it’s a polite thing to do for other people, not to be coughing and spluttering on them.’
Dr Miller said West Australians should wear masks in the same manner many Asian countries have, which has proven effective at stemming the spread of the virus.
‘It’s also just culturally getting used to the idea. Masks are one of the things that have set Asia apart. Masks as part of their culture has really helped them to carry on with life,’ he said.
In order to prevent a large outbreak, Dr Miller believes other COVID fit precautions including using QR codes at venues will need to become a part of life in WA.
‘It’s not that hard to scan your phone when you got into a pub or a club or a restaurant. I think that just needs to become part of our new normal life,’ he said.
‘It’s our responsibility to now be in a state where for the next couple of years — if that’s how long it takes to get an effective vaccine or treatment — that we have tracking and tracing.’
Dr Miller (pictured) said the state needs to become ‘COVID fit’ to deal with any outbreaks
WA Premier Mark McGowan on Friday announced a plan, recommended by his health experts, to adopt a ‘controlled border regime’ on 14 November, after the borders were closed for seven months.
Travellers from areas with no local coronavirus cases for 28 days – which currently include everywhere except NSW and Victoria – will be allowed to enter the state without quarantine.
They will have to fill out a G2G border pass and take a temperature check at Perth Airport or a land border checkpoint and may be asked to take a coronavirus test.
Passengers from places that have a 14-day rolling average of less than five cases per day – which includes NSW and Victoria – will be allowed to enter but must quarantine at a ‘suitable premise’ for two weeks.
They must also take a test on day 11 of their quarantine.
Essential workers such as truck drivers will still be able to apply for an exemption from self quarantine.
The announcement comes after a poll by the Tourism Council of WA on Tuesday found 70 per cent of West Australians wanted the border to be relaxed.
Western Australia banned travellers from any state on April 11 to stop the spread of coronavirus. Pictured: passengers arrive at Perth Airport from Sydney on October 19
Mr McGowan said the ban, which separated families and stopped WA residents returning home, was the state’s ‘best defence’ against coronavirus.
‘We took the opportunity and did the unthinkable, we closed our border. We turned WA into an island within an island and it worked,’ he said.
‘I will have no hesitation to reintroduce the hard border if that’s what’s needed to protect the health of Western Australians,’ he added.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said her state will never achieve 28 days without community transmission, meaning residents will always have to quarantine to enter WA.
Mr McGowan admitted: ‘We have a tough approach and we make no apology for that.’
He said the main threat to Western Australia is now from overseas and urged the federal government to be ‘very careful’ about relaxing the international border.
The premier said he did not agree with the idea home quarantine for returned overseas travellers and urged extreme caution in setting up travel bubbles with other nations and letting in international students.
Revellers enjoy the easing of coronavirus restrictions in WA at the Ocean Beach Hotel at Cottesloe in Perth on June 6