Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan has made a U-turn on the state’s border policy, now allowing international students to travel into Western Australia — welcome news to both students and Western Australian universities.
McGowan previously announced that the reopening of Western Australia’s border to the rest of the world on Feb. 5, 2022 will be delayed amid the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
In a Facebook post, he said: “Allowing hundreds or thousands of Omicron infected people to fly straight into Perth from Feb. 5, 2022, with no testing, no quarantine and no public health measures, would cause a flood of COVID-19 across our state.”
In a document — called the Returning Students Directions (No 2) — released on Tuesday, the state government said returning international students are allowed to come into Australia and cross into Western Australia from other states if they are fully vaccinated and agree to self-quarantine for 14 days.
“These directions set out the requirements that apply to returning students and are for the purpose of preventing the importation of COVID-19 into Western Australia and otherwise limiting the spread of COVID-19 into Western Australia,” it said.
Returning international students must comply with several requirements, including:
- Provide proof they are fully vaccinated or provide a medical exemption when entering the state
- Has access to “suitable premises” located within 200km of their point of entry into Western Australia
- Download a G2G Now app while in quarantine
- Returning students must get tested on the first and 12th day of their quarantine
Failing to comply with these directions could result in imprisonment for up to 12 months or a fine of up to AU$50,000 for an individual or AU$250,000 for a body corporate, said the document. It is unclear if new international students can return to the state.
Policy backflip would be welcome news for students, Western Australian universities
Western Australian universities were previously up in arms about McGowan’s announcement about the state’s border reopening delays, lamenting that they risk losing students to other states that remain open to students.
The Guardian reported that Western Australian universities have “been thrown into chaos” by the decision to keep the state’s border closed, which would continue to bleed revenue while other states with open borders can receive stranded international students.
It said over 30% of all international students studying in Western Australia – just under 7,000 – remained outside the country at the end of 2021.
One staff from a major university who requested anonymity said the decision to delay the state’s border reopening had thrown the sector “into chaos”.
“Teachers had their inboxes full with students panicked,” he said. “Many students were already on their way and are experiencing distress and dislocation. But perhaps even more significantly, why would any overseas student ever trust WA in the future as a study destination?”
According to Studies in Australia, there are five Western Australian universities in the state, in addition to a range of private higher education providers and TAFE institutes. The student population in Western Australia is approximately 134,000; 29% are from abroad.