The WA government has announced it could fine passengers “up to $50,000” for not wearing masks at the state’s airports.
The rules apply to both inside and outside the terminal, and also to anyone in a vehicle picking someone up.
It follows a meeting of Australia’s national cabinet of state and territory leaders, which last week moved to mandate face coverings in all airports nationwide due to rising fears of more transmissible COVID variants leaking out of quarantine.
However, no other states have instigated a fine this large, which can rise to $250,000 for “bodies corporate”.
The rule does not apply to children younger than 12 or passengers who cannot wear a mask because of a physical or mental illness, condition or disability that makes wearing one unsuitable.
Masks can also only be removed for certain reasons such as eating food, for identification or communicating with a deaf person.
“Early evidence shows this super-fast spreading UK variant of COVID-19 is 70 per cent more infectious than other strains,” said WA Premier Mark McGowan. “This new strain is now setting a whole new benchmark in our fight against COVID-19.
“The introduction of more protection measures will help us in our response to stop any COVID-19 spread into WA. We need to keep up the good fight against COVID-19 and now more than ever we need to be extra vigilant, follow the health advice, and practise COVID-safe principles to keep the WA community safe.”
It comes after Australian Aviation reported earlier this week how Rex, Virgin and the Australian Airports Association (AAA) have backed the new rules on wearing masks on flights nationwide.
AAA chief executive James Goodwin said wearing masks should become second nature.
“All travellers should arrive at the airport prepared with their own mask,” said Goodwin. “Airports have been and will continue to assist governments and the nation during the pandemic despite significant drops in revenue.”
The AAA also pointed to a survey it had commissioned that found 83 per cent of passengers would wear a face mask travelling domestically and 71 per cent would be more confident to fly if they were made mandatory.
IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac has previously insisted he prefers mandating masks rather than keeping the middle seat free.
“The safety of passengers and crew is paramount. The aviation industry is working with governments to re-start flying when this can be done safely. Evidence suggests that the risk of transmission onboard aircraft is low,” said de Juniac.
“And we will take measures — such as the wearing of face coverings by passengers and masks by crew — to add extra layers of protection. We must arrive at a solution that gives passengers the confidence to fly and keeps the cost of flying affordable. One without the other will have no lasting benefit.”