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SA Govt finds 'suitable' location for student quarantine hub


SA Health has identified a site for overseas students to quarantine, with a report to be handed to chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier outlining where the hub could operate to kickstart the state’s $2 billion international education industry shut down by the pandemic.

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Spurrier told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that a dedicated team within SA Health was “actively looking” at a dedicated quarantine hub for overseas students.

She said the team had identified “somewhere that we feel is suitable” to house the quarantine facility, but refused to say where.

“We’ll be announcing it and it’s somewhere that will be safe and suitable for students,” she said.

“We’ve looked at the ventilation and such like and my team are putting together a report that will come to me.”

Spurrier said the facility would operate differently to the medi-hotels for repatriated Australians.

She cited the recently-opened quarantine facility for seasonal agricultural workers at Paringa in the Riverland as an example of a different quarantine model.

That facility caters for up to 1000 overseas workers arriving under the Commonwealth Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme, to fill critical agricultural worker shortages.

“I was really pleased with the way the Paringa model has worked out and I went up there the day the young men from Tonga came into that resort,” she said.

“It’s outdoors, it’s very well ventilated and we have a slightly different staff mix, but very much similar security – we’re doing the same testing regime and such like.

“We need to be looking at all the businesses and our economy in South Australia and try and do as many work rounds as we can to still keep South Australians safe, but to allow some of those businesses and such like, particularly in terms of the students, starting to come back into our state.”

InDaily asked SA Health when the report to Spurrier would be complete, whether a formal agreement had been signed by the Government to set up a student quarantine facility at its preferred location and when SA Health would announce the site.

A spokesperson responded: “SA Health are assisting in determining a safe and suitable quarantine option for any arriving students.”

The University of Adelaide on Monday shut down completely for one week as the institution grapples with a serious financial blow inflicted by the pandemic shutting Australia off from the lucrative flow of international students.

The closure was sparked by negotiations between the university and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) last year to avoid 200 full-time staff redundancies following what was then projected to be a $225 million loss in university revenue over the 2020-21 financial year.

Freedom of Information documents show that in April last year the vice-chancellors of South Australia’s three main universities wrote to Premier Steven Marshall seeking information on how international students could return.

“Although we are not contemplating anything that would not have full SA and Commonwealth Government support, it would be sensible to consider future arrangements so that any further delays in students’ progress are no greater than absolutely necessary,” they wrote.

In August, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham announced that Adelaide had been selected to host a pilot program to allow international students to fly into Australia, however that program, which at the time sparked controversy, never eventuated. 

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