South Australia drops quarantine requirement for foreign students

State becomes first jurisdiction to step back from its pilot scheme, after being first to get one approved

November 1, 2021
Adelaide city centre
Source: iStock

The first Australian state to successfully negotiate a “pilot” scheme for overseas students has now all but abandoned the idea, as the rapid reopening of the country’s borders renders its quarantine plans obsolete.

South Australia will no longer require participants in its “international students arrival plan” to undergo a fortnight’s quarantine, as specified when the scheme received federal government approval last June.

And authorities are reconsidering the need to charter special flights for students, after the government flagged the complete opening of its borders to fully vaccinated international arrivals.

“Things are moving faster than we thought,” said Study Adelaide chief executive Karyn Kent. “That’s a great thing for the students who need to get back at the beginning of 2022.”

Under the state government’s “Covid-Ready” plan, immunised interstate travellers will no longer need to quarantine once 80 per cent of locals aged 15 and over are fully vaccinated – a milestone expected to be achieved on 23 November.

At that point, quarantine requirements for vaccinated international arrivals will halve from a fortnight to a week. And they will be discarded entirely when the state reaches the next double-dose target of 90 per cent of locals aged over 11 – a mark that premier Steven Marshall reportedly expects to reach before Christmas.

South Australia first aired plans to fly in students in late 2020. In May this year it lodged a proposal to bring in 160 international students at a time, quarantining them in accommodation originally built for flight school students at Parafield Airport in Adelaide’s north.

The scheme was endorsed by Canberra the following month, with the first students expected to arrive in August. But planned flights were reportedly shelved over mounting ancillary costs such as on-site security and nursing that would have driven quarantine costs – to be shared by universities and students – as high as A$12,000 (£6,580) per person.

Most recently, students were expected to begin arriving in the first week of December. Ms Kent said with the timing of flights now “closely aligned” with the relaxing of border restrictions, it made no sense to persist with quarantine.

She said that her team, universities and private colleges were “still working through” whether commercial services to Adelaide would have sufficient capacity to accommodate students’ needs, or special flights would still be needed to ferry them.

“We’re working together as a sector to help the students navigate all the information,” she added. “There are still some varying quarantine requirements around Australia and certain dates that things will change.”

While foreign students currently require travel exemptions to enter Australia, Ms Kent said she hoped this would change before South Australia reached the 90 per cent vaccination milestone. She said it was “bittersweet” to relinquish plans that had consumed “months and months of work” by many people across the sector and government. "But no quarantine requirement is the best outcome for students.

“The theme of Covid has been that you go down one path and then you have to completely change your direction based on new rules and new requirements and new protocols and new preconditions.”

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