International students will be able to quarantine at existing buildings at Parafield Airport
South Australia Health approved the plan in May, but federal government approval was pending
Premier Steven Marshall said international education contributed more than $2 billion to the SA economy in 2019
The hub, based at Parafield Airport in Adelaide’s north, will allow students to complete their two weeks’ quarantine upon arrival.
South Australia’s Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier approved the plan in May, but approval by the federal government was still pending.
Education Minister Alan Tudge said the proposed hub met with the government’s guidelines.
“Importantly, the plan won’t take any quarantine places from Australians returning home,” Mr Tudge said.
“SA will need to continue to meet the longstanding preconditions we have set and ensure Australians are protected from potential COVID outbreaks.”
Premier Steven Marshall said international education contributed more than $2 billion to South Australia’s economy and almost 20,000 jobs were “underpinned” by the sector in 2019.
“International students add so much to South Australia’s multicultural fabric along with the clear economic benefits for our CBD and our state overall,” he said.
“The health and safety of South Australians is our number-one priority [and] there is still more work to be done with the Commonwealth and education providers.”
The hub will host up to 160 students.
Medi-hotels in the CBD will continue to be used by Australians returning from overseas.
Professor Spurrier said she was pleased the facility had been given the green light, as South Australia had been greatly impacted by the loss of international students.
“The facility it actually an ideal quarantine facility because it is single ground floor units, there’s no corridors basically, so it’s very well ventilated,” she said.
“It’s ideally set up for a student cohort because that’s actually what the facility is normally used for.
“The flip side of course is there has been a lot of impact on our state not having international students, not just for the university, but I work in the city and you really notice the number of people around, not having the international students here.”
She said SA Health had also carefully considered the staffing that would be required to run the hub.
“Our team has been doing a lot of planning around it so in terms of infection prevention control, the nursing, what would be required for pathology, and then we’ve got excellent security staff who’ve been working out a detailed security protocol as well,” she said.
Labor pushes for quarantine facilities
Salisbury Mayor Gillian Aldridge raised concerns about potential outbreaks from the facility, when the plan was proposed in May, but said the council would work with the government.
“The main issue is: Is it safe? We don’t want it to get out into our community, and I am being told that will not happen,” she said at the time.
Opposition health spokesman Chris Picton said Labor had been pushing for the state government to establish dedicated quarantine facilities for returning Australians rather than international students.
He said quarantine facilities would be safer in preventing outbreaks than medi-hotels.
“It’s completely inconsistent that we are establishing a dedicated facility for international students, but the government is resistant to establish a dedicated facility for returning Australians,” Mr Picton said.
“Returning Australians seem to be destined for medi-hotels, in decades-old motels and hotels in the city well into the future, whereas international students have this dedicated facility, which seems to be a safer model than what we have in the city.”