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Marshall: 'We had to deal with Omicron before flu season'

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Premier Steven Marshall “completely rejects” a suggestion by West Australian Premier Mark McGowan that eastern states did not prioritise lives by reopening their borders late last year, arguing it was important to pass the Omicron peak before a looming flu season.

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In an apparent shift in rhetoric, Marshall today insisted the decision not to close the borders in the face of the Omicron surge was made “to get this wave through before we get into the dangerous flu season”.

His comments came after WA’s Labor Premier, who faced a mixed reaction to his recent decision to defer the planned reopening of his state’s borders, told parliament yesterday that “we did the right thing to save lives”.

“We did the right thing to save the lives, particularly of older people and particularly of immunocompromised people,” McGowan was reported in WA media to have said, insisting he was “proud of that decision”.

“There will be people alive who wouldn’t otherwise be alive because of the decision the Government of Western Australia took… the South Australian, Tasmanian governments, other governments around Australia, took a different decision and there’s a large number of people who are now dead in those states.

“That’s my point of view – I actually value human life, I value it.”

Asked about McGowan’s comments on the campaign trail today, Marshall initially said he hadn’t heard them, but that he “completely rejects any comment we haven’t prioritised lives”.

“We’ve had an extraordinarily good performance in SA,” he argued, noting that WA “hasn’t opened the borders yet” but Omicron had regardless infiltrated the state, which today recorded 643 new cases.

“You cannot keep Omicron out, there’s no way you can do it,” Marshall said.

“It was our decision that we should be doing that [facing the Omicron surge] before the flu season… we haven’t had a flu season in Australia for three years [so] that’s a dangerous time to have very high numbers of Omicron.”

Marshall said “we know we needed to make sure we needed to get this wave through before we get into the dangerous flu season [so] that’s the decision we took and it was the right decision.”

SA has recorded 169 deaths linked to COVID, with all but four of them coming since the November border reopening.

Marshall said he was “not going to comment on any other state’s performance but I think SA has stood up extraordinary well”.

“We’ve worked together through some tough times but I think we’ve delivered the right balance,” he argued.

“Yes, you can lock up the state – that’s what Labor wanted to do, they’ve been out there questioning and querying the opening of the state… they’d have us be a hermit state, just like Western Australia.”

Marshall has flagged additional easing of some restrictions after the COVID Ready Committee, on which he sits, meets tomorrow.

The Premier confirmed he was still sitting on the committee despite the Government being in caretaker mode.

Asked if this was appropriate, he said: “Yes.”

 

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