Mark McGowan has abandoned Western Australia's February 5 re-opening date - claiming it would be reckless and irresponsible to let the rest of the country in now
Mark McGowan's decision to shut Western Australia off from the rest of the country is backed by a silent majority who want the state to remain a Covid-safe haven.
The WA Premier on Thursday night announced he would be abandoning plans to re-open his state's border on February 5 as Omicron cases surge in the eastern states.
McGowan has repeatedly highlighted the Covid situation in the eastern states in stark terms - warning during a dramatic night-time press conference that his state's 88 per cent double-dose vaccination rate would do little to stop the transmission of Covid.
State-wide polling has consistently showed strong support for keeping the border shut - with 82 per cent of its residents backing a hard closure as of last October, with locals begging Mr McGowan not to open the border. McGowan himself claimed he had been inundated with supportive messages on Friday.
The state reported just five new cases of Covid on Thursday - compared to 21,966 in Victoria and 30,825 in NSW - and many of the state's residents thanked McGowan for the move overnight, even as usually compliant state media, businesses who do commerce outside of WA and even some doctors erupted over the backflip.
Ex-Federal Labor MP Emma Husar is among the premier's most high-profile cheerleaders and cheered the move on Friday morning.
'I'm sorry - everyone lecturing WA right now can sit down,' she said. 'That's a lot of families and friends not "living with the virus".'
Pictured is a masked pedestrian in Perth. Mr McGowan warned his state's 88 per cent double-dose vaccination rate would do little to stop Covid infections
Ex-Labor MP Emma Husar is among the Western Australian premier's most high-profile advocates
'I'm sorry - everyone lecturing WA right now can sit down,' Ms Husar wrote on Twitter on Friday morning
She was joined by thousands of McGowan supporters who took to social media to celebrate the late-night revelation that their state would stay closed.
'So relieved to hear our state is staying safe,' one resident commented on the premier's announcement on Facebook.
'Now our healthcare workers can breathe better. Thank you Mark,' another said.
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Mr McGowan has previously warned hundreds of the state's residents will die if he 'invited' the virus into WA too soon.
'By knowingly letting the virus in, it would mean we'd have hundreds of people die, have to wind back our local freedoms, introduce restrictions and shut down large parts of our economy,' he said.
In September, he mocked politicians in the eastern states for suggesting WA would want to 'deliberately infect ourselves' with the virus.
'We have plans in place but I'm not going to deliberately allow for Covid to come in before such time as we have very high levels,' he said at the time.
'I know some people over in the eastern states are demanding we do it, I don't really get that, I don't understand why we would deliberately infect ourselves with Covid before we get to very high levels of vaccine.'
Then last night he claimed the state's double-vaccination rates were insufficient to handle the Omicron strain.
'So far, the science shows that people with only two doses of a Covid vaccine have only a four per cent protection against being infected by the Omicron variant,' he said on Friday.
'With a third dose it can provide a 64 per cent protection against infection.'
However these figures contradict official figures released by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation last month.
ATAGI said Omicron only reduced the chance of being infected by the virus from 80 per cent to 36.7 per cent among fully-vaccinated people. A third booster dose raised protection to 86.2 per cent.
Ms Husar was joined by thousands of McGowan supporters who took to social media to celebrate their state staying closed
Those federal government figures are similar to, or appear to be based on, a South African study which found Omicron reduced a double-vaccinated person's risk of infection to about 30 per cent.
The Department of Health has also stressed that while the risk of infection may have risen with the new strain, Australia's approved vaccines had higher protection against severe illness, hospital admissions and death.
Mr McGowan said he wanted at least 80 per cent of WA's eligible population to be triple-vaccinated before he would consider opening the state border.
He added only 35 to 38 per cent of WA would have received their third dose by February 5.
Instead of the planned February 5 re-opening, Western Australia will continue using a hard border - but with an expanded exemption criteria.
'It would be reckless and irresponsible to open up now. I can't do it,' he said.
The state will