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Australia mulls green light system for international student pilot

The Australian government is considering a 'green light/ red light' border system to allow vaccinated travellers into the country under its student pilot initiatives.
June 21 2021
3 Min Read

The Australian government is considering testing a ‘green light/ red light’ border system as part of its student pilot initiatives to allow vaccinated travellers into the country, local media reports have suggested.

The federal government approved a plan submitted by South Australia to see the return of 160 students per fortnight on June 18, while stakeholders also anticipate a similar plan in New South Wales will also be approved in late June/ early July.

The NSW pilot would bring 250 international students to the state every two weeks.

The governments of Australia and New Zealand have also announced that quarantine-free travel between the two countries will be reintroduced this week.

And prime minister Scott Morrison has said that compatible vaccination recognition systems could be key to setting up ‘travel bubbles’ with other countries such as Singapore, Japan, and South Korea, according to SkyNews.

While there is “no rush” to reopen borders, Australian trade minister Dan Tehan reiterated over the weekend, Australia and Singapore are continue to negotiate a potential travel bubble.

“We will only create a bubble with Singapore when it is safe to do so”

“It has been made very clear we will only create a bubble with Singapore when it is safe to do so and in the meantime we are looking at what would be the processes that would allow that to be as safe as possible,” Tehan said.

Morrison also suggested that fully-vaccinated international students could be involved in a new traffic light system trial for international ­arrivals.

Institutions in both South Australia and New South Wales – as well as the rest of Australia – have recorded declines in international student enrolments over the pandemic. I

A decrease of $19.4m in annual results in comparison to 2019 at UNSW was “mainly driven by the decreased course fees from international students”.

The University of Wollongong 2020 report showed a headline result of approximately minus $40m and showed a “sharp downturn” in onshore international student enrolments.

The loss of enrolments and their fees will “scar the budget position for several years”, the institution noted.

Immediate impact has – for some universities – been less detrimental than feared.

The University of Adelaide in South Australia recorded “better-than-expected” enrolments in 2020, with international student revenue reaching $254 million – the same as in 2019 – but saw a reduction against budget targets of $293m, its annual report noted in late May.

International commencements appear to be down 37% in 2021, and were down by 17% in semester 1, vice-chancellor and president Peter Høj said. “Strong indications of significant further deterioration… will lead to sustained losses for Australian universities for at least three years,” he said.

“Without a rapid opening of borders to international students, this will be exacerbated to what could be crisis-like dimensions that will threaten the country’s research base dramatically, at a time when we are looking to utilise it to pivot to a more resilient economy with enhanced sovereign capability.”

“We don’t want a single case imported into Australia,” Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton said this week, pointing to the spread of the Delta variant in Singapore – one of the countries being considered for a ‘travel bubble’.

“We don’t want a single case imported into Australia”

“That does require Singapore getting to a really, really low zero level in their jurisdiction,” he noted, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald.

In late April, the chief health officer indicated high vaccination coverage in Australia would allow for borders to reopen eventually.

As of June 20, 6,590,741 vaccine doses have been administered, but Australia’s vaccine rollout has hit some delays.

“We all need to step up to get vaccinated in order to open up Australia to world travel and arrivals so that our education sector, tourism sector and all of the other kinds of compassionate reasons for us to see family and friends overseas can come to the fore,” Sutton said at an event in April.

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