The Jakarta Post
As countries around world face the COVID-19 pandemic, some Indonesian students said that they felt safer staying in Australia, despite Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s statement that international students “make their way home”.
On Friday, Morrison advised holiday visa holders and foreign students who are unable to support themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic to return to their home countries as the country looks to reserve economic aid for its own citizens.
"As much as it's lovely to have visitors to Australia in good times, at times like this, if you are a visitor in this country, it is time […] to make your way home,” Morrison after a Cabinet meeting on Friday, as quoted by Australian public broadcaster ABC.
Despite the prime minister’s statement, Dian Dini Primadani, the vice president Indonesian Student Association (PPIA) in South Australia, said that around 160 students in the state chose to stay put as they felt safer.
She added that some students that have gone back to Indonesia before the pandemic cannot go back to Australia now, forcing them to postpone their studies.
Several Indonesian students said they chose to stay because they felt that Australia has better healthcare capabilities.
“Because if I go home in Indonesia the conditions are the same, or maybe even worse right?” Nadiah Ghina Shabrina, a 22-year old Indonesian studying for a master’s degree at the University of Technology Sydney told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.
Nadiah felt that the hospitals in Australia were more capable, adding that going home might risk contracting the disease during travel and endangering her family back in Indonesia. “I feel safer here,” she said.
As of Sunday, Indonesia has announced 2,273 confirmed cases, with 191 deaths, while Australia has recorded 5,687 cases, but only 35 deaths.
Marissa Devi, a 27-year old student pursuing her master’s degree at the University of South Australia in Adelaide echoed Dian’s sentiments.
“I personally feel safer here, specifically South Australia. A few days ago, it was reported that the state was the best for COVID-19 testing worldwide,” she said. “My parents have asked me to go home, but I feel that, in Jakarta, the risk of contracting the disease is even greater, not to mention the limited capacity for testing.”
Indonesia has only tested 7,986 people as of Saturday, while Australia has tested more than 260,000 people.
The Indonesian Embassy in Canberra, however, advised Indonesian citizens with travelers and working holiday visas to “immediately arrange a return trip to Indonesia” following the Prime Minister’s statement.
Embassy spokesperson Billy Wibisono said that the embassy and consulates would keep track of Indonesian nationals holding working holiday visas that needed help while continuing to aid ones that have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Australia.