Governments of Australia and New Zealand have signalled that the borders may open to international students in the coming months, with some restrictions and quarantine measures in place. Australia and New Zealand have both successful in stemming the COVID-19 outbreak with low daily infection rates in recent weeks. Both countries have announced plans for a phased reopening of their respective economies and borders in “The safest possible way”.
In an 8 May statement, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison set out a3 step plan to gradually remove current public health and travel restrictions. The actual implementation of the plan and the timing of each phase will fall to Australian states and territories in the months ahead. The timing of the Australian plan suggests that international students may be able to travel to the country again as of July, likely with some restrictions still in place and with strict post-arrival protocols that will include a quarantine period. Media reports suggest that any cohort of foreign students admitted in July would likely be drawn from a specific group of source countries where the virus has also been brought under control. That initial cohort will in effect also serve as a pilot that could lead to a larger intake in the latter months of 2020 and into 2021.
On 13 May, New Zealand continued the planned reopening of its economy with a move to Alert Level 2 – a step that triggers the opening of a number of additional facilities, businesses, and institutions, including schools. Early learning services, schools and tertiary education facilities are open to all ages. It is safe to attend all forms of education. Additional public health measures are in place In practice, this will mean the distance learning services will remain in place for many schools and institutions, including within the country’s universities which are expected to continue to deliver most of their programmes online through July. The New Zealand government is also working on a plan to allow international students to return to the country, likely in advance of a wider opening for international tourists. They are exploring measures for international students coming into New Zealand that sees them quarantining for two weeks.