Hundreds of university students who travelled home to NSW for the semester break have been banned from returning to the ACT due to Sydney travel restrictions.
Despite living and studying full-time in Canberra, university students without an ACT drivers' licence or long-standing lease in the ACT are being refused entry.
An ACT government spokeswoman said exemptions were granted in very limited circumstances, including being unable to remain in Sydney or having an urgent need to be in the ACT.
"Even if an exemption is granted, the recipient would still be required to quarantine for 14 days at a suitable premises," the spokeswoman said.
There are currently about two dozen students from Greater Sydney either finishing off their quarantine or their stay-at-home orders at the Australian National University.
The students returned to the ACT from NSW before ACT Health implemented the pause on returning students on July 9, when Greater Sydney was declared a COVID-19-affected area and quarantine requirements were implemented.
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith came out in defence of the university students fined for illegally entering the ACT on Friday, suggesting their decisions were likely due to ignorance rather than defiance.
Ms Stephen-Smith said she understood why ANU university students might consider themselves to be ACT residents.
"They might have come back legitimately not realising they still need to complete an exemption form and they still needed to get that exemption through the system," Ms Stephen-Smith said.
"On the other hand, if they haven't been studying at the ANU before and they haven't been ACT residents then that is clearly a breach and there's no real excuse for that."
Eight teenagers from Sydney were each fined $1000 this week after being found staying at an Airbnb in Batemans Bay. The Canberra university students had reportedly travelled to the South Coast en route to the ACT.
Similarly, the daughter of NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro was fined for breaching public health directives when she travelled from Sydney to the ACT.
Ms Stephen-Smith said ACT Health directives were very clear for returning students.
"Greater Sydney is in lockdown. You shouldn't be travelling from Greater Sydney unless you have a legitimate reason and you shouldn't be coming to the ACT unless you have an exemption," she said.
Ms Stephen-Smith said students who had been caught and fined this week had been identified and approached by authorities very quickly.
"I would say to anyone who is considering breaking those rules and coming into the ACT without an exemption, someone will dob you in," she said.
"Someone will notice you are here and someone will tell the authorities."
An ACT Health spokesperson said ACT Policing was currently conducting compliance checks on students from Greater Sydney.
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