WA top doctor says ‘no logic’ in Mark McGowan’s ‘captain’s call’ on COVID isolation and border rules

A top WA doctor has delivered a scathing rebuke of Premier Mark McGowan’s border and COVID isolation policies calling them a “captain’s call” based on “no medical reason”.

Western Australia AMA President Dr Mark Duncan-Smith has said there is “no justifiable reason” for Premier Mark McGowan’s two-week isolation policy, slamming his COVID measures as a “captain’s call”.

The state’s Omicron outbreak continues to surge with the state recording 31 new COVID cases on Sunday – a pandemic record – which has forced hundreds of school students and workers into isolation for two weeks.

The President of the Australian Medical Association in WA said the 14-day isolation period – which had been dropped by all other jurisdictions – was “unnecessary” from a medical standpoint.

“I can only assume it’s a captain’s call because there’s no medical reason, there is no infectious diseases reason, there’s no public health reason to do this,” he told Sky News Australia’s Laura Jayes.

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He said the chances of contracting COVID from a close contact in the second week of isolation was less than one per cent and added that it had not happened in Western Australia at all since the beginning of the pandemic.

“There’s really no justifiable reason, it appears to be just holding onto something that might have been applicable in a COVID-zero environment,” he said.

“But to be holding onto it now, there’s no logic to it, there’s no medical reason, it really does seem to be a captain’s call.”

The Premier continues to face pressure over his decision to delay the border reopening after previously declaring the hard border would fall on February 5, despite support from Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.

Western Australia’s vaccination rate currently sits at 92 per cent, but while Mr McGowan has not set a new date, he has indicated that a booster jab rate of more than 80 per cent would most likely see the borders reopen.

The concern surrounding the reopening of borders centres around the capacity of the state’s hospital system to cope with a surge in Omicron transmission.

Dr Duncan-Smith said while a poll of WA doctors showed 80 per cent were concerned with hospitals’ ability to withstand an outbreak, 50 per cent said borders should reopen before winter.

The top doctor placed the blame for the state’s struggling hospital system firmly at the feet of the Premier given the government had two years to prepare for rapidly rising COVID cases.

“One of the main reasons is the McGowan government has kept the health system here with a flatline for operational budget for the last five years and kept it in austerity for too long,” he said.

“They’ve used it as a budget repair tool and as a consequence when we entered this pandemic we had the lowest number of hospital beds and ICU beds per head of population of any state or territory in Australia.”

There are currently 249 active COVID-19 cases in Western Australia with 237 people in self-quarantine.

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