Victoria is expected to welcome back more than 120 international students and workers 24 May onwards, under a state government plan to support its COVID-19 economic recovery.
Acting Premier James Merlino wrote a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, addressing that the program would function on an “industry/user-pays model”. Relevant industries such as tertiary institutions, stage and screen productions and major event organisers, will provide funding for the operational costs.
“We’ve always said that we would work to welcome back international students when it is safe and reasonable to do so,” Mr Merlino said.
Where will the returned students quarantine?
The students would be staying in a separate hotel quarantine facility to returned Australians, with the arrangements identical to those made for the Australian Open.
The cost of the quarantine programme will be “in addition to” the $3000 fee charged by returning Australians for one adult. After consulting with related industries, a final fee will be determined. Victoria’s international passenger limit of 1000 arrivals per week will be unaffected by the international students.
Mr Merlino added, studens would arrive “where possible” on commercial passenger flights, subject to “operational guidelines to be developed in consultation with COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria”.
What health measures will be taken?
The program would be subject to the same health and safety measures as the system for returned Australian arrivals. The staff will wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the same standards as those in the health and complex care hotels. Workplace App would also be used for tracing purposes.
What do others have to say?
The Victorian opposition’s Higher Education spokesman Matt Bach appreciated the program proposal, but said it had come six months’ late.
“The government can hastily put together a plan to get international tennis stars into the state, some of whom were actually COVID positive, but when it comes to our most important export industry that’s worth $14 billion a year and supports 80,000 Victorian jobs, it’s taken six months,” he said.
Mr Merlino has requested the Commonwealth Government to continue to expedite and issue visas and exemptions to travel restrictions to support the program.
However, people will be allowed only from a selected countries for now which have low number of covid cases.
A final decision will be made after a meeting of health officials later today.