Western Australia’s COVID-19 emergency has ended as the country prepares for a new wave of infections.
WA’s emergency powers expired on the night, more than two and a half years later.
They were used by the McGowan government to take drastic measures early in the pandemic, including declaring border closures.
Surprisingly, the government chose not to immediately enact a replacement power passed by a Labor-controlled parliament last month.
Temporary COVID-19 declarations can be used to enforce mask-wearing and isolation requirements, but not allow interstate travel bans.
Prime Minister Mark McGowan said the measures would only come into effect if necessary, but could be triggered by a surge in infections or the emergence of new variants.
“It’s there and available if you need it,” he told reporters this week.
Public hospitals will manage masks and visitor restrictions separately, but will ask staff and visitors to stay home if they suddenly feel unwell.
That’s because officials are warning of a new wave of infections as a new variant spreads across the country.
New South Wales Chief Health Officer Kelly Chant said:
“With all the local information we have and what is happening abroad, we believe that COVID cases will increase in the coming weeks.”
Dr. Chant said the virus has several subspecies in circulation, with BA.4 and BA.5 remaining the most common, but their dominance dropped to 63%.
9,707 people were diagnosed in the week ending last Friday, an increase of 11.4% from the previous week.
Tasmania’s Public Health Director, Mark Veitch, also warned that there could be a wave after a weekly surge in infections of around 27%.
State and territory authorities, as well as federal health departments, will share the latest weekly data on COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations on Friday.