Perth Australia Day Skyworks vaccination change sparks row over COVID-19 health advice
The Western Australian government has rejected claims it advised the city of Perth that people attending its Australia Day fireworks display should be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
- A City of Perth vaccination order for the Skyworks has been changed
- Council says it simply followed WA government health advice
- Mark McGowan says his government never suggested the policy
Perth Mayor Basil Zempilas announced last week that only people who can provide proof of vaccination would be welcome to view tomorrow’s Skyworks exhibition from the banks of the Swan River.
“If people don’t have proof of vaccination, they will be asked to leave,” he said last Tuesday.
But on Monday afternoon, the council acknowledged that people who were unvaccinated, or those who had only had one shot, would not be barred from attending.
The council said the initial decision to enforce the double vaccination requirement was based on health advice provided to them by the state government.
WA Premier Mark McGowan flatly rejected that claim.
Announcing the return of the Skyworks show after it was canceled in 2021, Mr Zempilas said 80 “COVID marshals” would line the northern banks of the Swan River as crowds gathered to watch the fireworks.
“They will randomly or otherwise ask people for their ID as well as proof of vaccinations,” he said.
“It will be an honor system…and we will ask people to have those details to provide upon request.”
Mr Zempilas later told Nine Radio that if anyone did not comply with the order, it would be up to the police to deal with it, as the marshals would not have the power to move anyone.
He said the city council was following the health advice given to them by the state government.
But Police Minister Paul Papalia yesterday insisted the requirement was something the city had implemented of its own volition.
“I’m not aware of any state requirements for outdoor vaccination certificates,” he said.
“There’s no obligation at this point for away events, so that’s something that won’t happen.”
Requiring proof of vaccination was not policy in the city of South Perth, where people were also expected to gather to watch the show.
On Monday afternoon, the City of Perth updated its Skyworks events website saying proof of vaccination was no longer a requirement.
“Softening” of health advice
Mr Zempilas said this morning the change came after the council had simply received new health advice.
“Since then, there has been a relaxation of expectations from the Ministry of Health. There was some delay in communicating that,” he told ABC Radio Perth.
“That expectation and requirement is no longer in place.”
Mr Zempilas faced reporters later in the day and read an email claiming to show the first health advice given to the council.
“‘It’s better to warn people about restrictions than to relax them,'” Mr Zempilas quoted in the email he said was sent by a health department officer on Jan. 7.
“That’s why the advice was that you will need to be vaccinated twice.”
Mr Zempilas suggested that the prime minister and police minister were unaware of the council’s correspondence from the health department.
But the department told the ABC it had not informed the City of Perth that proof of vaccination was required for Skyworks.
Skyworks should go ahead
Mr Zempilas said it was still possible Skyworks could be canceled if new health advice dictated it was a public health risk.
“The Prime Minister and his team have decided that Skyworks can continue,” he said.
“Now if that advice changes later today, tomorrow or an hour before the first fireworks, then we will understand that is the environment we are in.
“But at the moment, given the number of cases today and the trajectory of the last two days, we are confident that Skyworks – under the advice of the health department that currently exists – can continue.”
Skyworks Police Operations Commander Darren Seivwright said police will patrol alongside COVID marshals.
“So people can come to the event knowing they’ll be in a safe and secure environment.”
Nurses urge people to stay away
The Australian Nurses Federation (ANF) said that of a survey of around 3,000 members, 89% said Skyworks should be cancelled.
“They wonder why we are keeping the borders closed while allowing the biggest annual gathering, the biggest event on the Perth calendar,” said ANF Secretary of State Mark Olsen.
“[The government is] worried about people not wearing masks. They worry about the low testing rates so far.
“The Skyshow is an outdoor event, but there are a lot of people on public transport and cars.
“Members are calling on people not to go, stay home and watch TV. If you have to take a train, don’t go. If you have to take a bus, don’t go.
“If where you look [the fireworks] you can’t maintain a distance of 1.5 meters, don’t go there.”
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