South Australians are feeling uncertain and anxious about the state government decision to allow 300 international students back into the state to complete their tertiary studies.
However, Premier Steven Marshall has defended the pilot program, saying it was given the “tick of approval” from SA Health.
“There is a huge amount of anxiety around the coronavirus, and that’s why we always take our lead from SA Health,” he said on Tuesday.
“We put this proposal to them, and they believe a pilot is warranted at this time and can be managed safety.
“I certainly have been advocating for it, but we’d never go ahead with something without Health’s big tick of approval.”
Mr Marshall said the students previously studied in Adelaide but returned home during their break period and couldn’t come back after Australia’s borders closed.
He said there was no finalised date for their return.
“It’s the right decision because we need to create jobs,” Mr Marshall said.
“We’re dealing with a dual crisis in Australia, and we know international students create thousands of jobs and liven up our CBD, so it’s really important project.”
Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham announced the pilot program on Sunday that will allow the students to return from South-East Asia and complete studies already started.
He said it was an important next step to help recovery from the economic disaster caused by COVID-19.
“International education is a huge services export industry for Australia and for South Australia,” Mr Birmingham said.
“It underpins many thousands of jobs, and it is important that we work out how we can get international students back to Australia safely and appropriately.”
Like all repatriated Australians, the international students will quarantine in supervised medi-hotels for 14-days and be tested for the virus on days one and 12.
Health Minister Stephen Wade said the students would be returning on scheduled flights that were open for Australian residents and permanent residents to book.
“It’s not a situation where students will be displacing other people returning to Australia,” he said.
However, Opposition health spokesman Chris Picton said people were questioning the Government’s priorities, with South Australians stuck in Victoria, unable to come home or quarantine in hotels.
“There’s also many issues raised about Australians stuck overseas who have been continually cancelled from flights around the world and aren’t getting the same level of support,” he said.