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80,000 return to Australia and WA to open border

Up to 6,000 fully vaccinated international students are expected to return to Western Australia in the next few weeks under a new pathway announced by the state’s government, while its border will fully reopen on March 3.

Other Australian states such as NSW and Victoria reopened their borders in November. Photo: pexels

Some 13,500 students arrived in the country last week alone

The whole country reached a milestone of 80,000 returning students this week since national borders reopened.

Western Australia previously postponed a plan to open borders on February 5 as a result of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. The new plan allows international students enrolled or about to begin their studies in primary and secondary schools, universities, colleges, technical colleges, and other further education courses to begin entering the state. The first students began arriving on February 15.

Before this only around 900 international students had entered the state since January 20.

Arriving students will be subject to the same quarantine requirements as other approved travellers, and have the option of isolating in state-run hotels, approved hotel accommodation and on-campus accommodation, or other premises approved by WA Police or WA Health.

“This new pathway is part of our ongoing review of border controls taking place this month, based on the latest health advice,” WA premier Mark McGowan said.

According to the government, new health advice indicates that the international student cohort presents a low risk to the state’s community.

“The relatively small size of the international student cohort and the strong support universities provide allow us to have confidence in quarantine arrangements, meaning the risk to the community is low,” McGowan added.

“This recent decision is another positive step”

“This recent decision is another positive step toward getting international students back to study in Perth, which is StudyPerth’s primary goal,” StudyPerth said in a statement.

Earlier in February, Western Australia allocated some AUS$16 million to supporting the state’s international education sector as part of a new support package. Included was $8m for a Student Quarantine Support Program, $6m in grants for small and medium-sized education providers and $2m for a University Services for Students Support Program.

Students will be required to be triple or double dose vaccinated, have proof of a negative Rapid Antigen Test within 24 hours before departure, and quarantine for seven days to return under the plan.

Western Australia’s International Education minister David Templeman reminded that international students “add much to our community and our enduring relationships with countries throughout the world from where students come from”.

“I am very pleased that we have been able to safely enable international students to enter the state under these updated settings to support the flourishing international education sector and the many jobs and livelihoods it supports,” he said.

Across Australia, some 80,000 international students have returned since borders were opened, with 13,500 students arrived in the country last week alone, according to Universities Australia.

“Anyone who has walked across a campus this week would have felt the excitement building as students and staff are reunited after what has been a long period apart for so many,” said Catriona Jackson, chief executive of Universities Australia.

“The strong numbers of returning students we’re seeing is indeed a milestone worth celebrating”

In the week from January 24, some 7,000 students returned to the country. The close to 13,500 students arriving in the past week is equivalent to a 33% increase on the week prior, Universities Australia added.

“The strong numbers of returning students we’re seeing is indeed a milestone worth celebrating. We know there are students still to return, and we, as well as their domestic peers, stand ready to welcome them back,” Jackson noted.

However the sector faces a significant road to recovery and universities know “they’re not out of the woods”, she warned, adding that they are confronting revenue hits and job losses.

“There is rebuilding ahead and we continue to work with our communities to do that in the national interest,” she said.

“In the meantime, however, we are glad to see a return to the vibrant, hard-working campuses that sit at the centre of the communities we serve.”


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