Australia: New South Wales Halts Plans to Return Int’l Students Until Lockdown Ends, Premier Says

New South Wales has decided to pause the plans over the return of international students as long as the state is in lockdown, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has confirmed on Tuesday.

Berejiklian said that the government would not do anything to “compromise its ability to exit the lockdown” as soon as possible. Nevertheless, a final date for an end to the lockdown has not been set yet by the state government, Erudera.com reports.

“We will look at all those issues once we exit the lockdown. Whilst we are in lockdown, our absolute obsession is to get us out of lockdown. We all know the challenge that poses but know that by working together we will get there,” she was quoted by The Sydney Morning Herald as saying.

In the meantime, the Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge described the decision of the NSW government to pause the pilot program as the “right approach,” adding that at the moment, NSW is focused on reducing the COVID-19 numbers and get out of the current lockdown.

“We’ll continue to work with states and territories on proposals to return international students when conditions allow. As always, we’ll be guided by the health advice and keep the safety of Australians as our number one priority,” he said.

According to the NSW Vice-Chancellors’ Committee, Convenor Professor Barney Glover, the pause has been a “sensible response in the current circumstances.” However, Glover pointed out that the committee has been working on logistics with the state government to make sure that the pilot can proceed once the lockdown ends.

“Allowing international students to continue their studies in Australia is vital to the state and our universities,” Glover said.

This month, the National Cabinet agreed to the creation of a four-phase plan to reopen the country depending on the numbers of Australians being vaccinated against COVID-19. The first phase allows pilot programs for limited entry of student and economical visa holders, but the number of students to enter the country will be determined in the next phases.

Last month, South Australia became the first state to receive permission from the federal government to implement its plan over the return of international students. The plan intended to quarantine 160 students at Parafield Airport and oblige the latter to perform COVID-19 testing.

Every year, international students contribute a total of $14 billion to the NSW economy, with every international student spending a total of $60,000 on average for their education.

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