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Australia, New Zealand & Ireland - all set to reopen to international students after a long hiatus due to COVID-19

The past few months have been pretty hectic all over the world with governments trying to minimize the spread of the deadly Corona-virus. The world has even shut down all economic activities in an effort to contain the spread of this virus.

It looks like Australia and New Zealand have emerged victorious in this horrid battle. While it is not a complete win, it still is a very successful attempt at keeping the daily new case numbers pretty low to none. At the time of writing this article, Australia recorded a total of 7,081 cases and New Zealand recorded just 1,503 with no new cases in the past week. With this, both the countries are now ready to open the gates to the world with international students being one of the first cohorts of travelers to enter these countries.

This is definitely the beginning of positive results to happen in the fight with COVID-19 and more countries are soon to follow. Both countries have announced plans to safely reopen their economies and borders in phases. 

Australia’s 3-step plan

As Australia has successfully flattened the curve and is maintaining a low rate of new cases daily, it is in a position to progressively ease restrictions in a phased manner. In order to kick-start Australia’s economy to a sustainable level in the COVID-19 safe environment, its Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has unveiled a 3-step plan on May 8. The plan is to primarily remove baseline restrictions gradually while maintaining the country’s safety. 

The 3-step plan involves the gradual relaxation of restrictions, however, the timing of each phase will depend on a particular Australian state or territory. 

Phase 1 includes allowing up to 10 people at business spaces, opening of restaurants, cafes, shopping centers, libraries, community centers, and allowing local and regional travel. 

Phase 2 includes gatherings of up to 20 people at business and public spaces, opening of gyms, cinemas, and amusement parks, and allowing interstate travel. 

Phase 3 includes gatherings of people up to 100, return to workplaces, opening of food courts and saunas, all interstate travel, and allowing cross-Tasman, pacific island, and international students travel. 

The timing of this plan suggests that international students will be able to travel to Australia for studies as early as July, evidently with a strict quarantine period post-arrival. 

Australian Prime Minister Mr. Morrison said, “Issues of international students, you’ll note that it does come into the third step of the plan, that is a possibility. We are open to that, and would be working with institutions to see how that could be achieved.” With international education worth AU$40 billion per year and the specific importance it was given in their exit strategy only shows that it is set to become a reality pretty soon. 

Ravi Lochan Singh, the president of AAERI (Association of Australian Education Representatives in India) told The Pie News that given the current disruption in Academic calendar if Indian students cannot make it to the July/August intake, they have an option to get through to October/November intake for which many universities accept. Understandably, Universities will also move back their deadlines in order to accommodate international students. 

Given that students across the world are eager to get back to in-person learning and this inclusion of international student travel in Australia’s exit plan, its educators are ramping up safety measures for when students arrive. 

New Zealand’s move to Level 2

New Zealand has not reported any new case for the past week or so, with which, its Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has declared victory over the virus for now. Motivated by this, on May 13, New Zealand went ahead with the planned reopening of its economy and moved Alert Level 3 to Alert Level 2 in their 4 level plan. 

This level allows minimal socializing and the reopening of public and business spaces including institutions and schools. In spite of educational institutions being reopened, its distance learning services will continue to go on for some time now. That being said, New Zealand’s Education Minister, Chris Hipkins, has assured that plans are being made to allow international students to enter New Zealand soon (with quarantine measures). 

Given that the economic impact of the international education sector on New Zealand is estimated to be at NZ$5 billion and the current progress in taming the virus situation, reopening borders for international students is one of their priorities while ensuring that New Zealand becomes COVID-free. 

Ireland’s roadmap

Ireland is another country that was successful in containing the virus spread to a minimum. Encouraged by this, its government has initiated a 5-Phase roadmap to reopen its economy and eventually its borders for international students. 

Ireland initiated Phase 1 of the Five-Phased exit strategy on May 18 which was announced earlier this month by its Prime Minister Mr. Leo Varadkar. 

Phase 5, which is meant to start on 10th August 2020 would see the reopening of colleges and universities in Ireland.

Few Irish Educational Institutions like the Dublin Business School has delayed the start date for all the programs commencing this September 2020. The new start date would be 12th Oct 2020. Other universities are also expected to follow the same trend to accommodate international students in the coming intakes.

This will give enough time for students to put all the documentation in place, complete any pending examinations and/or source funds required that otherwise might not have been ready.

Many other study abroad destinations are also making plans to reopen their borders for international students in the near future. Do follow us to receive updated information on this matter as and when available.

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