The dangers of international student quarantine

A new report (above) has found that New Zealand’s quarantine system for returned international travelers was unable to cope due to extreme stress amid high levels of demand.

The report highlighted weaknesses in the system relating to things such as the use of PPE and a lack of standard procedure for health and well-being checks.

The report was commissioned by the government after it was revealed two women were released from quarantine early on compassionate grounds and without being tested, allowing them to travel from Auckland to Wellington where they tested positive to the coronavirus.

We have witnessed similar troubles in Melbourne where failures at two quarantine hotels caused outbreaks of COVID-19:

Multiple federal government sources have confirmed concerns about the lack of expert medical personnel advising hotel workers, who have the task of delivering food and escorting guests without appropriate personal protective equipment…

The same private security firm oversees quarantine arrangements at both the Stamford Plaza and Rydges hotels where infected staff members have spread the virus to close contacts and contributed to family outbreaks that forced the Victorian government to reintroduce restrictions…

Health Minister Greg Hunt told the ABC on Tuesday morning that the hotel quarantine system was the nation’s “defence against importing cases from around the world”…

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is rightfully livid:

Australian Medical Association President Tony Bartone has seized on Victoria’s breach of hotel quarantine infection control and its escalating COVID-19 outbreak as evidence of the need for an independent centre for disease control…

Victoria has had an issue with its quarantine hotels, after at least 33 staff members were infected with COVID-19 and took the virus home to their families.

A few weeks back we learned that international students would begin to be flown into Australia from July with Canberra and Adelaide receiving the first charter flights. Other jurisdictions are expected to follow, with international students to be quarantined for two weeks, paid for in part by Australian taxpayers.

MB has opposed this plan from the outset on grounds that:

  1. It could greatly increase the spread of COVID-19 given the widespread quarantine failures experienced to date;
  2. Australian taxpayers should not have to bear any of the costs; and
  3. It is unfair to import international students into Australia when we are not allowed to travel abroad and cannot freely travel interstate.

Clearly, the clusters of cases at quarantine hotels demonstrates just how risky any significant return of international students would be.

Their claim of a “COVID-19 safe corridor” is marketing spin. There is no such thing. The risks of further outbreaks would only multiply with thousands of international students arriving.

Australia’s international border must remain closed to everyone except returning citizens and permanent residents. No exceptions.

Leith van Onselen


  1. We are at risk of losing the social consensus on this.

    Why should anyone bother to social distance when NRL players could tackle and hug each other on television? Yet community sport was banned.

    And protesters can incite others, assemble in enormous groups, yell at each other without masks, get into scuffles with police and with rival protest groups, yet not receive a fine? Yet hugging your auntie was illegal.

    Why should hospitality, tourism and entertainment workers who are residents of Australia accept that they are not allowed to do their domestic jobs due to risk of spreading the virus, when students are allowed to fly in from overseas where case numbers are far higher?

    We need a consistent set of rules that applies to everybody and every job. If the job or activity doesn’t meet those rules, then it can’t be done.

  2. should I say: “I told you so”

    there are only two ways out of this hostage situation we got ourselves in by trying to suppress the virus:
    – vaccinate majority of people (or at least those at risk like sick and elderly)
    – protect those at risk while letting low risk population get infected

    ongoing suppression will require shutting down large parts of the economy too many times to achieve very little at a very high cost. If we have to repeat the same shutdowns just two more times with hundred or so deaths each time we are going to spend well over $100m per every life “saved”. That’s unjustifiable using any moral or legal criteria known to humanity. Young Australians will have full right to riot against that.

    First option doesn’t look like a viable and serious option to rely on

  3. adelaide_economistMEMBER

    Not wanting to be conspiratorial when a lot of these quarantine failures can be put down to people’s narcissism and general incompetence, but to deliberately keep bringing large numbers of non-essential people (ie international students) from virus hotzones does fit perfectly with the idea that powerful business interests want the economy open at any cost. That cost being the well-being of the bulk of us who can’t isolate ourselves completely and indefinitely from the bulk of the populace and who generally have to make use of things like public transport, fly on commercial airlines and do our own shopping. It seems if they get enough of the virus unleashed (even in areas where it has been crushed, like SA) then they can play the ‘oh well, might as well open everything back up’ card.

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