Esperance Shire calls for closure of highways into region

Shire of Esperance president Ian Mickel

Shire of Esperance president Ian Mickel

As the WA Government considers restricting visitors to regional areas of the State, the Shire of Esperance has gone even further.

Shire president Ian Mickel has written to the government asking for the Coolgardie-Esperance Highway and the South Coast Highway to be closed to visitors.

Mr Mickel said the council is extremely concerned that an influx of visitors, either from the goldfields or larger cities, would endanger residents and overwhelm local health services.

"This comes from people power, I guess," he said. "We had a doctor brief council and it was suggested we could close the roads to isolate ourselves from the broader community.

"We considered that but found we didn't have the power to do it ourselves, it must be done at a State level.

"We've had a lot of local groups saying we should shut the gate. They are talking about isolating other communities, such as the Kimberley.

"Our population is 14,000 and we probably haven't even got enough health facilities for ourselves if the virus hits. We haven't got the resources to look after visitors.

"There may be people who decide to come and camp here and wait it out."

Mr Mickel said while there were no recorded cases of the virus in Esperance as yet, he'd like to keep it that way.

He said he realised creating physical road blocks on the highways would require support from the State as someone would need to man them.

"We just want the State to assist our community to look after our own, and like any small, rural community, we do that extremely well.

"There's been the usual panic buying that's happening everywhere, but people here are committed to pulling their weight and particularly in caring for our elderly and most vulnerable."

The council has issued this statement to potential visitors;

"For anyone considering travelling to the Esperance area, please respect the current non-essential travel directive and also be aware that should you become unwell, we have very limited medical facilities and services within the Shire.

"Please stay safe, think of others and seriously consider your need to travel at this time."

Premier Mark McGowan this week called on people to cancel their Easter travel plans to country WA and is looking at drafting restrictions on travel between regions.