Geraldton adapts to “new normal” of masks, with additional COVID restrictions flagged

Phoebe Pin, Jake Dietsch & Kate CampbellGeraldton Guardian
Cafe Fleur manager Hazel Forman and barista Elisa Pasotti on the first day of Geraldton's mask mandate.
Camera IconCafe Fleur manager Hazel Forman and barista Elisa Pasotti on the first day of Geraldton's mask mandate. Credit: Jake Dietsch/Geraldton Guardian

After two years of being almost entirely restriction-free, the Mid West has finally joined the rest of WA living under the State Government’s mask mandate.

Premier Mark McGowan announced a raft of new restrictions on Friday — some of which are yet to be imposed in the Mid West — as well as that the State’s hard border would fall on Thursday, March 3.

Locals spent the weekend in a frenzy scouring the shelves for masks, rapid antigen tests and other supplies in preparation for the inevitable transmission of COVID in the community and ahead of being forced to cover up from Monday.

Chemist Warehouse in Geraldton pharmacist Mahmoud Elshwekh said the pharmacy had been busier over the weekend but he hadn’t noticed any angst among customers.

The pharmacy had sold out of masks on Sunday, but was expecting more stock to arrive early in the week.

Mr Elshwekh said as well as masks, more people were booking in for vaccinations “to protect themselves” and the pharmacy had also seen a spike in sales for COVID tests and pain medication.

By Saturday morning, Cotton On Geraldton had sold out of masks and another Marine Terrace clothing boutique said it had been fielding mask requests since the announcement on Friday.

Geraldton shoppers in Northgate Woolworths on the first day of the Mid West's mask mandate
Camera IconGeraldton shoppers in Northgate Woolworths on the first day of the Mid West's mask mandate Credit: Jake Dietsch/Geraldton Guardian

While many have been dreading the mask mandate, others have been questioning why the rule was not introduced in the Mid West earlier.

One Kalbarri resident said he was confident COVID was already in the community and was concerned to see the level of complacency among locals.

“People may feel safe but they are not,” he said.

“We have a large population of elderly residents here, and they are at risk.”

The Mid West remains on the precipice of plunging into harsher restrictions which now apply to the Perth, Peel, South-West, Wheatbelt, Great Southern and Pilbara regions.

Under the Level 1 rules, Mid West residents would be restricted to hosting home gatherings of no more than 30 people, outdoor gatherings with a maximum of 200 guests, and observing the 2sqm rule at selected public venues.

Visitation at residential aged care and disability care facilities and hospitals would also be limited to four visitors per patient/resident per day.

Mr McGowan said Level 1 restrictions would apply to regions like the Mid West as soon as there was community transmission of the virus detected there.

Masked shoppers at Northgate Shopping Centre in Geraldton on February 21.
Camera IconMasked shoppers at Northgate Shopping Centre in Geraldton on February 21. Credit: Jake Dietsch/Geraldton Guardian

City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn said the City’s buildings such as the library, senior centre and administration would continue trading as usual “for now,” but warned that could change.

“Once the virus takes hold through our City, that will impact staff resources,” he said.

“On the east coast there has been at times a 20 per cent loss of staff due to illness or isolation requirements.

“We have to plan for that and it will invariably have an impact on our operating.”

Mr Van Styn said the City had been planning for this announcement for “many months” and was confident the procedures were in place “ready to go.”

With Geraldton’s double dose vaccine rate above 95 per cent, he said the community had taken its obligation seriously and was as prepared as possible ahead of the March 3 WA border reopening.

“The planning is there. So I’m confident as a city, that like the state, we are well prepared for when the virus comes here,” he said.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails