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Opposition over South Australia’s airport quarantine plan for international students

South Australian
The South Australian government said international students will not be skipping the queue ahead of stranded Australians.

A local council is opposing the South Australian government’s plan to quarantine students at facilities in Parafield Airport over concerns about COVID-19 escaping the facility, said local reports. According to ABC News, the City of Salisbury Council is also concerned about a lack of consultation on the plan and the potential effect on the reputation of the area, located in Adelaide’s northern suburbs. They voted unanimously last night (June 1) to oppose the plan.

The South Australian government recently announced that up to 160 international students at a time would be quarantined at accommodation originally built for flight schools at the airport. The new proposal by the state government is still pending endorsement by the federal government.

A motion put up by City of Salisbury deputy mayor and councillor Chad Buchanan said the council would “publicly state its opposition and disappointment that there was no public consultation on the proposal.” The motion also calls for the state government to focus on returning Australian citizens and permanent residents rather than international students.

They will write to all state MPs urging them to “put first the health and wellbeing of citizens and businesses of the northeastern suburbs and the City of Salisbury” and “provide assurance that the most stringent measures will be implemented to avoid any health breach from the proposed facility.”

Buchanan added that local residents were concerned the facility would be too close to homes. “These things aren’t foolproof and one of the things that we are calling for as part of the motion is calling on the state and federal government to learn from the recent medi-hotel COVID breaches and construct a purpose-built quarantine facility outside of residential areas,” he was quoted saying.

Buchanan was also quoted saying by The Advertiser that Mayor Gillian Aldridge only heard about the state government’s plans for up to 160 students when she got a phone call over the weekend before the news broke the following day. “There has been zero public consultation with the community before this announcement,” said Buchanan, calling on the government to provide an “urgent briefing.” “Please, please, consider constructing purpose-built quarantine facilities outside of residential suburbia.”

South Australian government says students will not jump the queue

South Australian

Opposition to the South Australian government’s plan stems from the stigma associated with Adelaide’s Parafield cluster. Source: Sean Rayford/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

Opposition to the South Australian government’s proposal to quarantine students at Parafield Airport also stems from stigma associated with the area. November’s Parafield cluster saw the state going into lockdown for three days. “The whole state knew about Parafield due to the Parafield cluster and now the same area and location is being proposed to have the Parafield quarantine facility,” Buchanan told ABC News.

South Australian chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said the quarantine site at Parafield Airport would be reserved for international students because of the way it was set up. Spurrier said students were used to “unit-style” accommodation, while international arrivals were not. “The way the units are set up is there is a kitchenette and then there are a number of bedrooms and it’s all in one detached unit, and so you couldn’t expect an international arrival to share a facility with people they don’t know because there would be a risk of catching COVID and also I think that would be considered unacceptable,” she was quoted saying.

The state government has said international students will not be skipping the queue ahead of stranded Australians. “Any international students that come in, they will pay their way and it won’t impact the quota of people returning home,” said Infrastructure Minister Corey Wingard.