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Student who saved $28,000 stuck in limbo with 200,000 others after Omicron travel ban in Australia

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Pictured: Nepalese woman Niya Tamang, 24

Pictured: Nepalese woman Niya Tamang, 24

A young Nepalese woman who worked in an orphanage to save $28,000 to study in Australia fears she’ll lose her money after the borders were slammed shut as a precaution against the worrying new Omicron variant.

Niya Tamang, 24, is among 200,000 visa holders stuck in limbo for at least a fortnight while the government tries to get a handle on the mutant strain of coronavirus and its responsiveness to vaccines.

Ms Tamang was excited to start her Masters in Social Change and Development at the University of Newcastle when Australia’s international borders opened to foreign students on December 1.

But her plans came crashing down on Monday when the federal government banned all non-citizens from entering the country to try and curtail the potential spread of Omicron – a new strain of Covid-19.

While Prime Minister Scott Morrison set a new date of December 15, the international travel ban could be extended if experts deem Omicron a major public health threat.

The move effectively locked skilled workers out of the country, along with countless international students who pay tens of thousands of dollars to study at Australian universities.

Ms Tamang’s degree had already been postponed from February this year to April 2022 due to pandemic travel bans, but now she has no idea whether she’ll be able to enter the country.

‘I resigned from my job to come to Australia, but now they’re not letting us come,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.

Niya Tamang (pictured) worked in an orphanage to save $28,000 to go to Newcastle University

Niya Tamang (pictured) worked in an orphanage to save $28,000 to go to Newcastle University

The young woman is fully vaccinated and said her parents, who helped her pay her university fees, are still working hard under the belief that she’ll be given the best opportunities by studying in Australia.

While Ms Tamang doesn’t have to pay anything more for now, she’s concerned she will lose money if she is unable to arrive by the time she has to enrol in April.

‘Let’s hope for the best I am hoping to come Australia very soon,’ she said. 

Savin Chhetry, 25, is originally from Nepal but lives in Sydney, and runs a Facebook group to help prospective students organise jobs and accommodation in Australia.

He knows about 80 others who, like Ms Tamang, could lose thousands of dollars in university fees if the borders stay shut.

‘The students in Nepal are hurt by the news because they already planned everything,’ he said.

‘Border restrictions are killing many family’s hopes of getting back together and, students have been waiting so long and may still not be able to come to Australia.’

Mr Chhetry said Nepalese students spent about a month travelling back and forth to ensure they’ve filled out the correct international study forms because there are no online services in their country.

Savin Chhetry (pictured), 25, runs a Facebook group to help prospective international students organise jobs and accommodation in Australia

Savin Chhetry (pictured), 25, runs a Facebook group to help prospective international students organise jobs and accommodation in Australia

Ajay lives in a tiny village with his parents, about three hours out of the Nepalese capital Kathmandu.

The 20-year-old had grand plans of studying a Bachelors of Applied on Finance and Accounting at the Australian National Institute of Management and Commerce in Sydney.

He worked as a junior accountant to saved $24,000 for his degree and had his flights and accommodation booked for early December to ensure he was ready for enrollment in early January, until Omicron appeared.

 jay’s December flight was cancelled, and he doesn’t know when he’ll be able to book a new one.

‘I have to come if the border opens otherwise I will lose 50 per cent of my money,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.

‘The worst part is I am vaccinated but there are still problems entering Australia.’

His parents, who own a hair salon, have been asking him to request a refund and go to a university in Nepal, but Ajay feels as though he would have more opportunities in Australia.

Ajay (pictured) worked as a junior accountant in Nepal and saved $24,000 to study in Sydney

Ajay (pictured) worked as a junior accountant in Nepal and saved $24,000 to study in Sydney

Ajay (pictured) is now jobless and waiting for the international borders to open so he can start his finance degree

Ajay (pictured) is now jobless and waiting for the international borders to open so he can start his finance degree

Ajay quit his accounting job ahead of his flight to Australia, and is now unemployed and waiting for the borders to open.

Daily Mail Australia has contacted Australian National Institute of Management and Commerce for comment.

Newcastle University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Kent Anderson told Daily Mail Australia that students stuck overseas can get a 20 per cent discount if they start studying from home, and complete their studied in Australia when borders open. 

‘Additional options for students impacted by travel restrictions include deferring their offer for a later intake or withdrawing completely and receiving a full refund of their deposit,’ Mr Anderson said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, six Australians had tested positive to the Omicron variant.

NSW Health issued an emergency Omicron exposure site list on Tuesday with major hubs Top Ryde Shopping Centre and Westfield Parramatta among them, plus several supermarkets on the Central Coast. 

A woman in her 30s arrived in Sydney and visited several popular shopping centres in both areas, after reportedly returning from two southern African nations. 

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard confirmed on Tuesday that the latest case had travelled to Sydney from South Africa on November 25. 

Pictured: International travellers in PPE gear at Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport on November 29

Pictured: International travellers in PPE gear at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport on November 29

Six people in Australia have tested positive to the Omicron variant of Covid-19. (pictured: Afamily arriving in Sydney on November 29)

Six people in Australia have tested positive to the Omicron variant of Covid-19. (pictured: Afamily arriving in Sydney on November 29)

‘This particular lady came in before the new arrangements, that is transferring to a health hotel, so she has been out in the community and health is now investigating that.

‘She has essentially been out in the Central Coast area.’

The latest infection is now the fifth case of the highly transmissible Omicron Covid strain detected in NSW.

A sixth national case was identified in an overseas traveller isolating at the Howard Springs quarantine facility in the Northern Territory.

The man had travelled from South Africa on an international repatriation flight that arrived on November 25.

Urgent genomic sequencing is meanwhile underway to determine if two overseas passengers are infected with the new Covid-19 variant.

The Omicron variant of covid-19 was first detected in South Africa. Pictured: A family being reunited at Sydney International Airport on Tuesday

The Omicron variant of covid-19 was first detected in South Africa. Pictured: A family being reunited at Sydney International Airport on Tuesday

The pair flew from Doha to Sydney on flight QR908 on Thursday, and are now isolating in home quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19.

The latest virus mutation, first detected in South Africa, sparked concerns around the globe amid fears it is more transmissible than world’s most contagious and dominant strain, Delta.

Australians arriving in NSW who have visited South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, and Malawi within a 14 day period must stay in hotel quarantine for two weeks – regardless of vaccination status.

Under the federal rules, passengers already on flights to Australia who have been in those countries over the past 14 days will be forced into two-week hotel quarantine.

More than 141 people have been sent to hotel quarantine for a 14 day isolation period so far, since arriving in the state from the countries of concern.

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