Delta variant in Sydney: Is NSW’s pilot plan for international students affected?

Experts said the Delta variant appears to be more transmissible across all age groups, including children, and can take just five to 10 seconds to pass on the deadly virus. Source: Saeed Khan/AFP

Parts of Sydney will go into lockdown as New South Wales (NSW) is fighting to contain a fresh outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and SW Health Minister Brad Hazzard announced today (June 25, 2021) that four local government areas will go into lockdown from 11.59 p.m. tonight until at least midnight on July 2, including Waverley, Woollahra, Randwick, and the City of Sydney.

Experts told ABC News that this variant appears to be more transmissible across all age groups, including children, and can take just five to 10 seconds to pass on the deadly virus. It is spread so easily that a person in Sydney infected a stranger by merely walking past them.

Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young told the portal that the risk of COVID-19 has never been higher. “If you remember at the start of this pandemic, I spoke about 15 minutes of close contact being a concern,” she was quoted saying. “Now, it looks like it’s five to 10 seconds. That’s a concern. The risk is so much higher now than it was only a year ago.”

What does the spread of the Delta variant mean for NSW’s pilot plan?

At the time of writing, there have been no official reports on what this could mean for international students planning to return to the state. NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announced on June 10 that a select group of international students is expected to return via the NSW government pilot plan slated for the second half of the year.

It will enable 250 international students to come to Sydney per fortnight from mid-year, in a gradual approach that will enable the state to closely manage the process and ensure community health is not compromised, said Perrottet. A limited number of students from a range of countries will quarantine in purpose-built student accommodation adhering to the same quarantine requirements as all incoming travellers. 

NSW recorded its biggest rise in daily COVID-19 cases since the latest outbreak began on Friday, with 22 new locally acquired infections bringing the total to 70, said local reports. Existing restrictions announced earlier this week applying to seven local government areas – Woollahra, Waverley, Randwick, City of Sydney, Canada Bay, Inner West and Bayside – have been extended until 12.01 a.m. on Saturday, July 3, said 

Delta outbreak

International students are expected to be welcomed back under an NSW pilot plan, but how will the Delta variant outbreak affect it? Source: Saeed Khan/AFP

“As previously stated, if you live or work in the City of Sydney, Waverley, Randwick, Canada Bay, Inner West, Bayside, and Woollahra local government areas, you cannot travel outside metropolitan Sydney for non-essential reasons,” said the statement by both Berejiklian and Hazzard. “Residents across greater Sydney should also limit unnecessary activity and avoid large gatherings in coming days and comply with the current restrictions.”

Australian Medical Association president Dr. Omar Khorshid told the portal that while the body was “pleased” with the move, “unfortunately in our view that is not quite enough.”  “What we really need are clear rules for all Sydneysiders that say, ‘Stay at home so we can get ahead of this virus and stop further transmission,’” Khorshid had reportedly told reporters in Canberra. “The Delta virus is different. It is being transmitted far more easily and everyone has acknowledged that it is different. Sydney has not faced this before and it means a different approach is required.”