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International student flights resume to Adelaide

written by Adam Thorn | August 17, 2020

An aerial view of Adelaide Airport. (Seth Jaworski)
An aerial view of Adelaide Airport. (Seth Jaworski)

A pilot program to allow international students to fly into Australia will begin in September, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham has announced.

Up to 300 students from China, Hong Kong and Japan will travel from Singapore into Adelaide before undertaking the standard 14-day hotel quarantine.

The initiative is likely to be controversial given a cap on the number of Australians allowed to return home each week, and a ban on anyone bar citizens and permanent residents entering the country.

“We want to make sure that anything that happens in relation to international arrivals coming into Australia is done with the strictest of safety standards in place,” said Minister Birmingham.

“I also want to stress as well that no taxpayer dollars will be used in terms of supporting students flying into Australia or quarantining as is required.”


The government has long muted a scheme to return international students to Australia, however it was seemingly pushed back due to a second wave of coronavirus cases in Melbourne and a number of ‘clusters’ in Sydney.

It was initially assumed that Canberra would be the home of the first pilot program.

The decision to return international students will be controversial given the other, stringent restrictions on flights into Australia.

Currently, all Australian citizens, permanent and dual nationals are banned from leaving the country, and only citizens and permanent residents can arrive.

In July, the country then introduced a cap on the numbers allowed to return to Australia in any given day or week in order to stem the flow of people entering government isolation facilities. This was then extended until at least 24 October.

The current limits are:

  • Melbourne – no international passenger arrivals;
  • Sydney – 350 passenger arrivals per day;
  • Perth – 525 passenger arrivals per week;
  • Brisbane –500 passenger arrivals per week;
  • Adelaide – 500 passenger arrivals per week;

“We look forward to, at some point, that might be able to be altered,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison when announcing the extension. “But at this point, we are not going to put any further strain on the quarantine arrangements around the country and they will remain in place now for some months.”

Minister Birmingham insisted the pilot international program would not threaten the existing cap into SA.

“My understanding is that the cap into South Australia has not been reached,” he said.

“There continues to be quarantine capacity for those who can get a flight into Adelaide. There is no taxpayer support for the airfares or quarantine costs international students will face.”

Before the start of the pandemic, there were 500,000 international students in Australia, with many paying up to $30,000 a year to study. Some estimates have put the cost of losing international students at $3 billion to the higher education sector.

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Comments (13)

  • Claud Freeman


    While I appreciate that we all want to see the world return to some degree of normality as soon as possible, I believe that the resurgence or ‘second wave’ of COVID-19 in Victoria and New Zealand should serve as a stark warning to all of the high risks that we continue to face with this disease. I firmly believe that it is too early and too high a risk to allow foreign students back into Australia. We have done well in South Australia to control the spread of the disease in our state, however, this is come at a considerable cost to our economy. Why would we want to take this additional risk now?

  • Andrew


    My question will be, how many will use the ability to fly into Adelaide and then straight away try to fly to Melbourne, Sydney etc and some will try to avoid quarantine

  • Phillip


    So, we have international students coming into Australia on foreign passports, but many Australian citizens can’t even travel into other states within the Australian federation… How does that work and why is that scenario allowed to happen? I am a resident in Canberra, where we have no clusters of coronavirus or any known active cases, and I am prevented from travelling to Queensland. Can some one please explain why the State Government of Queensland has the authority to do this, because clearly there is no public health reason for doing so, seeing the A.C.T. has no cases… Or is it just political that the Queensland premier wants to be seen doing something… at a cost to all those businesses in tourism in many parts of Queensland…. It really is quite disgusting and the Federal Government needs to shine a torch on why states are getting away with this, clearly where there is no health reason for doing so. I have no problem if there is a GENUINE public health reason, but to me, it doesn’t ring true in the scenario I’ve just discussed.

  • Bob Smith


    What a absolute joke!!

  • Greg Stevenson


    I thought the Borders where closed??????????????????

  • Patrickk


    Andrew they are locked into the local universities which will be responsible for quarantine etc. They cannot dodge quarantine on this one. They will also be existing enrolled students . Why Adelaide over Canberra is to do with the party in government and where Simon Birmingham is from.

  • Kim Knight


    I think that such a scheme is worthwhile on the following basis: The number of Aussies allowed to return home is not reduced; students are kept under strict quarantine is Adelaide – no compromise on that.
    They would help our economy significantly. Education to overseas students is normally a huge earner for our economy and it’s important that we try and revive that.

    “The government has long muted a scheme…” – should read “… mooted…”

  • Darren


    “Australia, the worlds biggest prison!”
    While Australia is enforcing the controversial, laborious, 14 day incarceration there shouldn’t be ANY bans on which nationalities can travel to Australia. But telling Australians they can’t leave? Come on!!
    Require preflight negative COVID tests from high threat countries sure, but there are plenty of countries as safe or safer than Australia to travel to.

  • Gurinder Singh


    Very good initiative I certainly welcome it. Thanks to the decision makers. On the other hand the government should not stop the citizens of Australia from flying in and forth of the country. Pre flight covid test and on arrival covid test plus 14 day mandatory quarantine on the travellers expense shouldn’t be an issue.

  • frank Holmes


    No way – way too early. All students must be covid tested before and when entering our country. Positive and you are on your way back. too bad.

  • stuart


    risk management low cv19 from HK Singapore Japan …… high risk Victoria and the risk of compromising other states … students comming boost the economy Victoria risks closing the economy …. its simple numbers ..

  • Liz Reid


    This is great news for the students and the money they will be bringing into to country however what about people who have got state sponsorship for South Australia and are not allowed into the country. They have already contributed a large amount of money to the state. Fingers crossed if the students coming goes well there will be a chance for other people to travel.

  • Carol


    We need to ensure these students are self sufficient and are not going to be looking for work also. We have not got enough jobs to keep them employed.

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