Vic plans to welcome overseas students

·3-min read

International students, actors and other foreign workers could return to Victoria from next month under a new proposal from the state government.

Under the plan, which is yet to be approved by the federal government, the state will begin accepting up to 120 international students and other "economic cohorts" each week from May 24.

Those arrivals would not be included in Victoria's weekly cap of 1000 returned travellers and would be housed in a dedicated quarantine hotel, similar to the program for the Australian Open earlier in the year.

Users of the system, including universities, stage and screen productions, and major events groups, would foot the bill, which is "over and above" the $3000 hotel quarantine fee for returning Australian adults.

The state government has been in discussions with universities for months as the sector lobbied to fly about 1000 foreign students into Melbourne every two to three weeks on chartered flights.

Despite the latest plan falling well short of that figure, acting premier James Merlino said Victorian universities supported the proposal.

"The ball's now in the federal government's court. We have met all the criteria ... and I'm very hopeful for a positive answer," Mr Merlino told reporters on Tuesday.

Victoria cannot proceed with the plan unless the Commonwealth government agrees to issue visas and exemptions, and count the arrivals outside its returned traveller cap.

If granted, the economic cohort would catch commercial flights where possible and be subject to the same stringent testing regime followed by other hotel quarantine guests.

The Victorian government in March announced its rebooted hotel quarantine program would put aside 120 additional places for the group once it scaled up to 1120 returned travellers a week.

That figure was cut back to 1000 after the federal government rejected the initial proposal.

About 34,300 Australians are still stranded overseas urgently wanting to return home, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman told AAP on Tuesday.

Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien supports the latest plan as long it does not come at the expense of Victorians desperate to return home.

"If the government can meet those criteria, it is appropriate to have a plan to bring international students back to the state safely," he told reporters on Tuesday.

The revived push comes as Victoria recorded no new local cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday from almost 17,000 tests, marking 60 days without any community transmission in the state.

All passengers who shared a Perth to Melbourne flight with a COVID-19 infected man last Wednesday have tested negative but must continue their 14-day quarantine period.

They are among thousands of people currently isolating in Victoria after returning from WA.

With the West Australian capital and the Peel region freed from a three-day lockdown, Victoria will downgrade the area from 'red' to 'orange' under its border permit system.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton confirmed that from 12.01 AEDT on Wednesday, people in those areas will be able to apply for a permit to travel to Victoria on the condition they get tested and isolate until they receive a negative result.

People currently in Victoria with a red-zone permit will be able to end their 14-day quarantine period if they have tested negative but must wait for formal clearance and release from the Department of Health.

A "small number" of people linked to exposure sites in WA will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, Professor Sutton said.