Health authorities are defending a decision to allow 300 international students to enter South Australia, amid accusations of double standards from members of Victorian border communities and Adelaide residents with family stuck overseas.
South Australia will become the first state in the country to welcome flight arrivals of international students as part of a trial, announced on Sunday.
SA Health said the trial was necessary to help revive the SA economy and the students posed little risk of coronavirus transmission.
The international students will go into mandatory hotel quarantine for two weeks before they start their studies.
Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr Mike Cusack said the international students posed little risk of coronavirus transmission in South Australia — especially since they will quarantine in medi-hotels
But the policy has prompted a backlash from members of Victorian border communities, locked out of South Australia except for essential travel, and from South Australians with family members who have been unable to get back into the state from overseas.
Paul Singleton owns a general store in the Victorian community of Nelson, a few kilometres from the SA border.
He told ABC News Breakfast the existing border restrictions have been devastating for him and his community.
“It’s ripping our own community apart. It’s ripping our relationship with our neighbours in South Australia apart — it really is a very emotional time here in town,” he said.
“I woke up this morning and I hear that the Marshall Government is going to let international students into South Australia.
“It’s a blow and it’s a slap in the face to border communities that contribute significantly to the South Australian economy.”
A caller to ABC Radio Adelaide this morning, Peter, said his wife had been stuck in Singapore for months.
He said her flight to Adelaide had repeatedly been cancelled and delayed, and she was having to pay four times the usual price for an airfare to Adelaide.
He said he had no problem with the international students being allowed to travel to Adelaide, but expressed frustration that his wife had not been able to get in.
“I’m all for the students coming back … the students are quite welcome,” he said.
Another caller said his wife was stuck in Ireland after the death of her mother, and is now struggling to get on a flight home.
“She went home because her mum was dying,” he said.
“There’s no guarantee she can get out of the country, there’s no guarantee she can get on the flight.”
Border crossers pose ‘higher risk’ than students
Dr Cusack acknowledged it was currently “very difficult” for some SA residents to come home.
However, he said people crossing the Victorian border posed a more pressing danger than arrivals by international students.
“We have been having international arrivals now for some months,” he said.
“The arrangements in the hotels have been very tight indeed.
“Our key risk at the moment is across the border in Victoria.”
Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak
Federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said international education was a key part of the Australian economy.
“International education is such a significant employer,” he said.
“South Australia has shown an exceptional ability to manage [medi-hotels].
“[The state] is a good market to do this in because there’s excess capacity … in quarantine.”
What you need to know about coronavirus:
This content was originally published here.