The first group of 250 international students is in quarantine after flying into Sydney under a COVID-19 pilot scheme to boost Australia’s struggling education sector.
Most international students have been shut out of Australia since March 2020 by some of the world’s toughest coronavirus restrictions.
A group of 250 international students landed Monday at Sydney Airport. Onboard the flight from Singapore were nationals from more than 15 countries, including Canada, China, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, and Vietnam. They will be in quarantine for three days.
A second flight under the pilot program carrying students from South Asia is due to arrive in Sydney later this month. It will guarantee students’ entry into New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, while the country’s international borders remain closed to most foreign travelers.
New South Wales’ minister for jobs Stuart Ayres hopes the students’ return will boost the local economy.
“They are our bar tenders, our cafe staff, our wait staff and we know our hospitality sector is really looking forward to seeing many of those students back in the workforce. We will continue to do around 250 students every fortnight until we can see more open borders,” Ayres said.
Other fully vaccinated students, skilled migrants and backpackers aren’t scheduled to be allowed into Australia until mid-December, but spaces on commercial flights could remain limited.
They were due to be permitted to fly into Australia on December 1, but concerns over the omicron variant prompted authorities to delay their return.
Health officials in New South Wales Tuesday reported six new omicron cases. They have detected 31 infections in the past three weeks.
Australia has reported about 220,000 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began. 2,000 people have died.
More than 88% of the eligible population has received two vaccine doses.