SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia is unlikely to reopen its border to international travellers until next year but will look to relax entry rules for students and other long-term visitors, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said on Wednesday.
Australia has been largely successful in containing the spread of the novel coronavirus, which it attributes to curbs on international travel and tough social-distancing rules.
Birmingham said a quarantine rule for returning citizens could be applied to international students and other visitors who plan to stay for a long period of time.
“We can simply work through the 14-day quarantine periods that have worked so well in terms of returning Australians to this country safely,” Birmingham said in a speech to the National Press Club.
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The return of international students will be a boost for universities facing big financial losses with the border closed as international education is Australia’s fourth-largest foreign exchange earner, worth A$38 billion a year.
Australia has had more than 7,300 cases of the coronavirus and 102 people have died from COVID-19, the disease it causes.
It recorded its biggest daily rise in new infections in more than a month on Wednesday, with the most of them in Victoria.
Victoria reported 21 new cases overnight, of which 15 are returned travellers in quarantine, taking the total tally for the day to 22 cases, with some states yet to report their data.
Both the Ardern and Morrison governments have promised it’s something they’re working on.
The Tourism Restart Taskforce wants trial flights to start in July while New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern said September was a more reasonable timeframe.
Meanwhile New Zealand is no longer free from the new coronavirus after health officials say two women who flew from London to see a dying parent had tested positive.
Until Tuesday, New Zealand had gone more than three weeks without any new cases and had declared that everybody who had contracted the virus had recovered, aside from the 22 people who died.