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Could Queensland’s mandatory quarantine drive students away?

Travelling to Queensland
Each state has different rules and requirements. Could Queensland's quarantine requirements work against the state? Source: Patrick Hamilton/AFP

Australia is no longer stuck in first gear as it joins the likes of countries such as Canada and the UK in reopening its borders to international students. On Monday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that fully vaccinated international students would return to Australia without an exemption from December onwardsAs each state has different rules and requirements for incoming travellers, industry experts have expressed concern that mandatory quarantine could deter students from studying and travelling to Queensland.

Travelling to Queensland: What we know

States such as New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia have already announced that it will not require fully vaccinated international students to quarantine provided they meet certain requirements.  

The Sunshine State still requires students to undergo a two-week stay in an isolated quarantine facility, which makes travelling to Queensland more expensive when compared to other states that have dropped the quarantine requirement. 

Study Queensland notes: “While students will be allowed to return to Australia from Dec. 1, 2021 without the need for exemptions, as per Queensland’s COVID-19 Vaccine Plan to Unite Families, there will still be a requirement to quarantine before 90% of Queensland’s eligible population (aged 16+) is fully vaccinated.” This milestone could be reached by mid-January.

Travelling to Queensland

The sector expressed concern that mandatory quarantine could deter students from studying and travelling to Queensland. Source: Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP

Queensland student arrivals plan

Griffith University vice-president (global) Sarah Todd has called on the Queensland government to set a deadline to end mandatory COVID quarantine for fully vaccinated international students, reported ABC News. Todd was worried that Queensland might lose students to interstate universities, with NSW and Victoria already abolishing quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers.

“If we could say to students now, ‘Yes, you will definitely be able to arrive in Queensland on this date and quarantine will not be required’. That would be great,” she was quoted saying. “Obviously, we’re very conscious of the health implications. But we’re also very aware of the value of international students to Queensland and the need to be as welcoming as other states.”

Professor Todd and colleagues from other Queensland universities will meet with state government representatives today (November 24) to discuss the state’s student-arrivals plan and hope for an update and clarification following the federal government’s announcement. 

She added that Queensland’s approved student-arrivals plan was based on mandatory, 14-day quarantine at Wellcamp, near Toowoomba, and a cap of 250 students arriving every fortnight from early next year, with preference given to those doing health degrees.

Todd added that travelling to Queensland would take time even if the state lifted its quarantine requirements because of the number of available seats on planes.

Chair of the Queensland Vice-Chancellors Committee Sandra Harding also expressed concern that mandatory quarantine could deter students from studying and travelling to Queensland, reported the Brisbane Times.

“We can’t be left behind in this … this is a state of origin that I want us to win,” Harding was quoted saying. “We want to follow health directions and we want to make sure our own communities are safe … but we have to address the cold hard reality here that students will be able to come back into NSW without quarantining.

The international education sector is worth almost six billion Australian dollars to the Queensland economy each year. “We have to think what that means for Queensland students and institutions, and for the economy overall, quite frankly,” she said.