Digital vaccine certificates could help return of international students: Australian official

Before the Covid-19 outbreak, there were more than 400,000 international students studying at Australian universities.
Before the Covid-19 outbreak, there were more than 400,000 international students studying at Australian universities.PHOTO: REUTERS

CANBERRA (XINHUA) - Australian Education Minister Alan Tudge said a digital vaccine certification system could pave the way for the return of international students to the country.

Under the proposal raised by Tudge on Monday (Jan 25), incoming passengers to Australia who have been inoculated against Covid-19 would not have to quarantine for 14 days. However, its success is dependant on the government finding a way to link vaccine certificates to a new digitised system for incoming passenger cards it plans to introduce in 2021.

Tudge said if a solution could be found, the certificates could be a pathway for international students to enter Australia in large numbers.

"If a vaccine works and stops the spread, and it can be rolled out effectively in source countries and we can have surety over vaccination certificates, then there is the potential to be able to bring in more international students without them having to quarantine," he told Nine Entertainment newspapers. "In part, that would be facilitated by the fact that we're digitising the incoming passenger card."

"Our aspiration is that we would then be able to electronically staple an authenticated, biometrically connected vaccination certification to that card." It comes only days after Tudge said that he didn't know when Australia's lucrative international education sector could restart.

Prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, there were more than 400,000 international students studying at Australian universities. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), international education was worth about 32 billion Australian dollars (S$32.8 billion) in the financial year 2017-2018.

Universities have repeatedly warned that without international students they would have to significantly reduce their research budgets and cut jobs.