The Australian government led by the Prime Minister has come up with a 3 step roadmap to a COVID safe Australia. The 3 step roadmap aims to get Australia working in a phased manner as soon as possible. Australia is expected to transit into the third phase of easing the coronavirus restrictions by July. It is in this stage that the Australian government is proposing to lift the border restrictions for international students. This proposal is an indication that if the state governments move into phase 3 un-deviated then students already enrolled in the various Australian universities will be back at campuses in time for their second-semester studies. With an estimated 120,000 international students expected back, they would become the first cohort of temporary visa holders who will be allowed to return to Australia.
Roadmap to a COVID Safe Australia
The way forward
Following Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s declaration of the three-step recovery plan, Greg Hunt, Health Minister has called in proposals from the educational institutes to bring back student visa holders stranded abroad.
Peak university bodies such as Universities Australia and the Group of Eight have handed in proposals to bring back international students in a gradual and safe manner. The proposals have been designed giving top priority to safety and community welfare. Pre-departure COVID-19 tests and strict quarantine arrangements upon arrival have been put forth.
The Group of Eight has put forth a ‘secure corridor’ pilot program to states and the federal government. The secure corridor program would enable the return of international students, subject to pre-departure isolation and strict health checks. The secure corridor program could be possible, either late this year or early next year however the Go8 has not been given any timeline as to when the government would allow foreign students back into the country.
After the government lifts the travel ban for overseas students and has agreed on the basic parameters of a safe return framework, the universities will get a clearer picture of the regulations. Universities and students need to be ready when the government decides to relax border restrictions.
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