australia border restrictions
Up to 300 international students who are stuck abroad are scheduled to return to three universities in Adelaide starting from November 2020 through January 2021. Source: Brenton Edwards/AFP

Up to 300 international students who are stuck abroad are scheduled to return to three universities in Adelaide starting from November 2020 through January 2021, coinciding with talks of easing Australia border restrictions, according to SBS PunjabiQuoting a South Australia Government spokesperson, the report said that details including the country of origin of students, flight dates and number of students per flight are yet to be determined. Students are expected to be flown on separate Singapore Airlines flights in the coming months.

The state government, however, confirmed that international students from nine countries have been invited to join the pilot plan, including Singapore, Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand and Indonesia. Seats on flights will be allocated to international students without disadvantaging Australian citizens and permanent residents seeking to return to Australia after months of being stranded due to COVID-19 border restrictions.

“The pilot programme is very important to South Australia’s universities, and to these students. But the return of Australians offshore is still the priority of the South Australian and Australian governments,” the spokesperson was quoted saying, adding that “South Australia looks forward very much to having them return. “

The three state-owned South Australian universities that will be taking part in the pilot programme include Adelaide University, Flinders University and University of South Australia, who have already sent out letters of offer to the cohort of students to put them on “standby.”

International students to pay for their flights and quarantine

On arrival in Adelaide, international students will be subject to the same measures already in place for returnees. This includes “a strict regime of testing” as well as a supervised two-week quarantine at a medi-hotel, said the University of South Australia. “Students will not be able to leave quarantine until they have tested negative for COVID-19.”

Students will be responsible for meeting the costs of their flights and quarantine process, with help from their respective universities. Echoing the state government spokesperson, the university confirmed that students for the pilot programme will be flying from nine Asian countries, adding that, “None of the countries students will be coming from are in the top 12 confirmed case countries in the world, as identified by the WHO (as at October 2020).”

Australia’s gradual easing of lockdown restrictions

On Nov. 10, 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that Australia is considering opening its borders to Asian countries, including parts of China, reported Reuters. Morrison ruled out visitors from the US or Europe, but said Australia may allow people from low-risk countries such as Taiwan, Japan, Singapore and provinces in China.

China was one of the first countries from which Australia restricted entry, said the report. The consideration of easing travel curbs comes as Morrison said Australia has gone three days (as of Nov. 10, 2020) without any locally acquired cases of COVID-19.

Australia has been under a strict lockdown since March 2020; their borders were shut to all non-citizens and permanent residents, though in October Canberra allowed New Zealand residents to enter.