Covid forces campus closures across Australia

Restrictions reimposed as isolated infections trigger domino effect

June 28, 2021
Sign saying: ‘Sorry, we are closed’
Source: istock

The gradual reopening of Australian campuses has come to an abrupt halt as waves of coronavirus infections sweep across the country.

University campuses in Sydney were closed as the city endured its first full lockdown in more than a year, after the infection of a limousine driver in the eastern suburbs led to dozens of new cases. Stay-at-home orders imposed on four eastern municipalities were extended to the entire Sydney basin just a day later, on 26 June, and scheduled to last at least two weeks.

The University of Sydney has moved to “after-hours mode”, with access only for essential activities. Study spaces and learning hubs are closed, masks are mandatory indoors, and staff and students need swipe cards to move around.

UNSW Sydney and the University of Technology Sydney have also closed for non-essential activities. “Wherever possible, staff must work from home and teaching, lectures, tutorials and practicals should now be delivered online,” UNSW’s website says.

The University of Wollongong’s campuses in Sydney are closed until further notice, while its main Wollongong centres are open only for essential purposes. The clampdown comes as restrictions were eased in Melbourne, which has endured far more Covid privations than any other Australian city.

On 25 June, the Victorian government lifted its recommendation that people study and work from home and removed limits on the number of people in teaching and learning facilities. The government also relaxed limits on gatherings for social and recreational purposes.

The University of Melbourne said it intended to conduct most “small to medium” group teaching in person, while maintaining online delivery for students stranded offshore. “We are planning to deliver around 90 per cent of semester two subjects on campus,” its website says.

Such optimism could be short-lived after a new outbreak was reported in Melbourne on 25 June, sparked by a local returning from Sydney.

Western Australia has also restricted gatherings and enforced mask wearing for at least three days, following the infection of a traveller returning from New South Wales (NSW). University staff and students have been told to minimise travel, wear face masks and check for further updates.

Three Charles Darwin University campuses are closed in line with a snap two-day lockdown that was imposed on the city on 27 June, after workers became infected in a remote Northern Territory (NT) mine. This outbreak reportedly began after a fly-in worker from Victoria picked up coronavirus in a Brisbane quarantine facility.

Gatherings in Queensland were also being limited for the duration of the NSW lockdown, with further restrictions introduced following the return of an infected miner from the NT site.

The outbreaks could undermine hopes for a resuscitation of the international education industry, after the federal government approved the first state-based programme to admit foreign students.

New Zealand has suspended quarantine-free travel from Australia. Interstate travel was also restricted within the country, with South Australia closing its borders to all jurisdictions except Tasmania and other states applying new limits.

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.

Related articles