Victoria will provide 14 million free rapid antigen tests and 51,000 air purifiers as Dan Andrews announces his plans to get kids back to school including twice-weekly tests for four weeks
- Dan Andrews says he will not close down schools due to Covid outbreaks
- Students above Year 3 will have to wear face masks in indoor settings
- Teachers will be required to wear masks at all times, even when not teaching
- School staff must receive a third dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by February 25
Schools and daycares across Victoria will be given 14 million free rapid antigen tests and 51,000 air purifiers as part of the state’s back-to-school plan.
Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Education James Merlino announced on Sunday that pupils and teachers would be encouraged to take a test twice a week for the first four weeks of Term 1.
Students and staff at specialist schools are recommended to take five tests each week due to the higher risk of severe illness for medically vulnerable children.
School and daycare staff must receive a third dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by February 25, or within three months and two weeks of receiving a second dose, if they want to continue working in education.
Victoria saw 13,091 positive test results overnight on Sunday, and 14 deaths.
Schools and daycares across Victoria will be given 14 million free rapid antigen tests and 51,000 air purifiers as part of the state’s back-to-school plan
Dan Andrews wants kids back in the classroom, but says school system will be under strain
Mr Merlino explained that air purifiers would be prioritised in high-risk settings like music rooms, staff rooms, indoor canteens, sick bays, and where there was poor ventilation.
‘More than 1800 schools have applied for a shade sail [funding], because we are encouraging, of course, outdoor learning, as much as practicable – particularly in these warmer months, as we start term one,’ he said.
Students in Year 3 and above would be required to wear masks indoors, and teachers at all times – even when not actively teaching or communicating with students.
When asked what would happen when a child tests positive, Mr Merlino said parents will have to inform the school and the Department of Health.
Pictured: Firbank Grammar student receives a RAT at school in Brighton, Melbourne
Minister for Education James Merlino said some schools have applied to erect shade cloths because outdoor learning is encouraged
‘When it is time to isolate, we will continue to provide our suite of online resources for students in prep right through,’ he said.
‘The way that we usually support students, if they have got glandular fever, if they are away for a significant period of time, there will be tasks that they are to complete, they will be supported by the school.’
Mr Andrews also said he would not shut schools down if there was a Covid case, and acknowledged rapid antigen tests would not be able to detect every case, ‘given the amount of transmission that is in the community’.
He said the recommended testing would enable schools and health authorities to ‘find as many cases as we can and shutting down those chains of transmission’.
More than 29 per cent of children between five and 11 have now had one dose of the Covid19 vaccine. Pictured: RAT tests being administers at a school in Melbourne
School students above Year 3 are required to wear face masks. pictured: Kindergarten students in Melbourne
The government invested $7.5 million in early childhood services to improve ventilation, alongside another $7.4 million to support kindergarten services to implement safety measures.
More than 29 per cent of children between five and 11 have now had one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, and the government was working to ensure all children in this cohort have access to two doses by the end of Term 1.
There are 66,000 appointments available for primary school-aged children in state-run centres over the next 30 days, and many more through primary care.
In light of potential significant but short-term staffing challenges in schools and early childhood services in Term 1, the government classified education staff as critical workers.
Household contacts will be allowed to voluntarily continue working if they are asymptomatic and return daily negative rapid antigen tests.