Students will be among the international arrivals quarantining at a facility at Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport, near Brisbane, from early 2022. The facility will have some 500 beds ready to use by the end of 2021.

“The universities have been speaking to us about the need to have some certainty about international students returning to Queensland at the right time,” Annastacia Palaszczuk said, Brisbane Times reported.

“We would like… students to start coming early next year.”

In a statement, Study Queensland said it had been working with the international education sector on a plan for the safe arrival of students.

“International students make an important social and economic contribution to Queensland, enriching our communities and providing a global perspective in our classrooms and workplaces,” it reminded.

“Prior to Covid-19, international education and training was Queensland’s second largest services export, contributing $5.8 billion to our state economy in 2019, as well as supporting many local jobs.”

Education export earnings from the state fell by some 21% in 2020, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

“If we don’t move, the other states will take the lion’s share of the students”

“If we don’t move, the other states will take the lion’s share of the students, which actually is worth billions to our economy,” Palaszczuk added.

The announcement comes after New South Wales revealed a plan to bring back around 250 students per fortnight from December.

Queensland’s Tourism and Innovation minister Stirling Hinchliffe previously noted that the timing of student returns is a decision for the federal government as it holds responsibility for the country’s international border.

“I’ve been working closely with Study Queensland and the state’s vice-chancellors to consolidate arrangements for the safe return of international students once the federal government makes its decision,” he said in May.

Phil Honeywood, International Education Association of Australia chief executive, recently told The Australian that Victoria and Queensland are “still a long way short of bringing students back”.

“In the case of Queensland, so much of the agriculture and tourism industries revolve around international students, not just from student fees but also for much-needed labour. It has been a massive hit,” he said.

Covid-19 restrictions were tightened in parts of Queensland further on September 30, with Brisbane City and Gold Coast City Councils among areas classified as high-risk impacted areas.

Palaszczuk has called for every eligible Queenslander to be offered a vaccine before borders open.

“Where countries have opened up too quickly, they’ve actually seen a spike in the number of cases,” she said.

Another 1000-bed quarantine facility has been proposed at Damascus Barracks, also near Brisbane, which is due to be constructed by mid-2022.

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