The McGowan government scrambled to amend rules for Perth’s snap three-day lockdown after initially telling people who raced to the regions that they only needed to wear a mask, now insisting they need to stay indoors.
On Friday afternoon before the midnight curfew kicked in, West Australians were told they could proceed with long weekend plans to travel beyond the metropolitan and Peel region.
Roads were jam-packed as people made the exodus, particularly to the popular South West region, where pubs and restaurants were swamped by the visitors.
A statement announcing the lockdown read: “Anyone who has travelled outside of the Perth metropolitan area and Peel region since Saturday, April 17, must wear face masks in public from 6pm tonight.”
But at a press conference on Saturday afternoon, the state government went further, saying those who had flocked to the countryside had to stay inside their holiday accommodation and could only go outside for the same four reasons people in Perth and Peel could, including one hour of exercise.
Police Commissioner Chris Dawson then signed an amendment to the Emergency Management Act to that effect at 8.58pm.
At the press conference, reporters heard people could not be prevented from travelling outside the lockdown zone before midnight on Friday because it took time to set up roadblocks.
At another press briefing on Sunday, Health Minister Roger Cook was asked if there had been a communication error.
“Obviously we are working in an evolving situation and had to move fast and swiftly. Those directions were clarified yesterday,” Mr Cook said.
He said people had been advised to use their common sense “and by and large people have”.
“We have been receiving reports people are heeding the appeal to wear masks when they are down south. And we’re pleased that’s the case,” Mr Cook said.
But Shire of Augusta-Margaret River president Ian Earl said he was very concerned to see many people visiting the surfing and winery mecca not wearing masks.
“Very selfish,” Mr Earl told NCA NewsWire.
“The whole state has done really well because we obeyed the rules and we can’t let a long weekend get in the way of all this good work that we’ve done.”
Opposition leader Mia Davies took to social media to lash the state government, drawing responses such as: “Way way too late for this. We’ll be super lucky if there isn’t any spread outside of Perth.”
Failing to comply with the lockdown laws is punishable by imprisonment for up to 12 months or fine of up to $50,000 for individuals.