Covid outbreaks have shut more than 320 schools across NSW and Victoria in past three weeks

より多い 300 schools across ニューサウスウェールズ州 and Victoria have closed down in the last three weeks due to Covid outbreaks, with the majority of students still due to return to classrooms.

Between the start of term four on 4 October and 22 10月, あった 234 closures at government schools in ビクトリア, figures from the Department of Education show.

少なくとも 20 private schools in Victoria were forced to shut in the same period, but the exact number is unknown because a list is not kept by either the department or Independent Schools Victoria.

In the same period 67 schools in NSW were forced to shut. それらのうち, 48 were public schools and 19 were nongovernment schools, the NSW education department said.

On Saturday NSW announced a further seven schools were closed on Friday for deep cleaning.

The majority of the closures in Victoria were for 24 hours to allow cleaning and contact tracing to occur, but the outbreaks have raised concerns that schools are not prepared to have everyone back in classrooms.

In NSW, a spokesperson for the education department said it was “our goal … that no school returns to extended learning from home”.

“A lot of work has gone into making schools as safe as possible, using expert advice from NSW 健康, the Doherty Institute, World Health Organisation and ventilation experts,” the spokesperson said.

“These measures include separating student groups (cohorting), staggering start, break and finishing times to reduce mingling, and vaccination requirements for all teaching and non-teaching staff.”

Schools in Victoria started a staged return to onsite learning from the first week of term four, 始まった 4 10月.

から 11 10月, stay-at-home orders were lifted across NSW. Schools have been returning to face-to-face learning either through a “staged return” or “full return”, depending on NSW Health conditions in their area.

It comes as new data from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, based on the NSW outbreak, predicted that the number of cases in children would rise as Covid restrictions ease, but only a small number of those infected would get severely ill.

In the last week, fights have erupted in NSW, with P&C groups who are trying to buy their own air purifiers being blocked by the state government. In Victoria, some teachers have expressed concern they are going into classrooms with not enough information to keep students safe.

With students starting to come back to classrooms, they say they’re running out of time to have these issues addressed.

月曜日から, classrooms across NSW will be full again. Kindergarten, year 1 and year 12 students returned last Monday, while other years will return on 25 10月.

All students in regional Victoria and those in メルボルン in years 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10 そして 11 officially returned to staged face-to-face learning on Friday. Year 12s returned on 6 10月. A return to full-time learning will resume when Victoria hits the 80% fully vaccinated target for those over the aged of 16, expected to be on 5 November or earlier.

In the past week, 14 schools in Albury-Wodonga closed due to outbreaks. A teacher from the area, who did not want to be named, said everyone was bracing for more cases.

“My school seemed very unprepared and apparently they have to undertake contact tracing by themselves now," 彼女は言いました.

The teacher said the community wasn’t sure yet what went wrong for so many to be hit at once, but they’re “not feeling great about it. There’s no ventilation in my school, just an ‘open a window’ approach," 彼女は言いました.

She said one of the primary schools has everyone isolating for 14 日々, but their siblings can go to other schools and their parents are allowed to work. Teachers were expecting more cases.

“I’m worried that it’s going to happen each week," 彼女は言いました.

On Wednesday the Victorian government announced a new plan where schools would generally only close for 24 hours as long as they didn’t have multiple cases.

“All students and staff who are not primary close contacts will generally return to school the following day,” a Department of Education spokesperson said.

“We’re taking every possible measure to make schools a low-risk environment and further reduce any spread – with air purifiers arriving in more schools every day, strict Covid-safe plans to prevent excessive mixing in schools, and the overwhelming majority of school staff already vaccinated.”

Burnet Institute epidemiologist Mike Toole said the new Murdoch Children’s research showed Covid spread in schools, but mainly through adults.

“They concluded most transmission was between teachers and staff and staff to children,” Toole said.

In Victoria, the state government has promised air purifiers in every classroom – but many are yet to arrive. In NSW, the government has promised to put them in some schools during air quality emergencies such as bushfires.

“Victoria has mandated masks down to grade three and recommended them under grade three, which I think is good,” Toole said.

“They’re recommended [for primary school students] in NSW but not mandated.”

It was inevitable that if cases in the community rise, more children will get sick if schools aren’t prepared, 彼は言った.

“The more kids that are infected, the more that get very sick. The more numbers of cases you have, the more kids with severe illness you get.”

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