Call for school closures in CQ amid pandemic
MANY Central Queensland residents are concerned about schools remaining open despite the Federal Government taking other drastic measures to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic by closing businesses and banning gatherings of people.
Not prepared to wait for the government to make the call to close schools like they have in countries like the United Kingdom, fearful parents are taking their children out of schools and attendances are reportedly plumetting significantly.
Among them is Rockhampton Regional Council candidate for Division 2 Gavin Shuker who posted on social media on Monday about his plans to take his kids out of school.
“As of tomorrow our kids will be staying home in support of teachers, it’s just ridiculous and they shouldn’t be in the firing line,” Mr Shuker said.
“Close clubs, pubs, gyms and to keep school open just defies logic.
“If you want to beat this shut everything and get it over with. By delaying you will cost people their businesses, homes and hate to say it lives.”
A Brisbane State High School wall was painted with graffiti reading “Shut school save lives’’ after revelations a parent sent their child to school after the parent was falsely cleared for COVID-19.
In NSW, a two-month old boy and a seven-year-old girl have become the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in children under the age of 10, with more than 1000 cases of coronavirus reported across the state.
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein said an online model would operate from next term but schools would remain open for in-school teaching of the children of essential workers and any others who wished their children to attend.
Australia’s top medical experts advising the National Cabinet have revealed the “trigger point” for tougher restrictions when Italian-style community lockdowns would be when there was substantial spikes in coronvirus, where more than half the cases were locally transmitted and were predicted to overwhelm the capacity of the health service in the region.
This week, the Australia Health Protection Principal Committee urged the National Cabinet to keep school closures and full community lockdown in reserve for now, dependent upon the outcome of daily reviews.
Lockdowns would most likely be considered for specific areas, rather than being nationwide.
Health Minister Greg Hunt defended the government’s decision to keep schools open saying it had followed the “established single principal voice” – the chief health officers and communicable disease experts – “without question, without hesitation”.
“THE very clear medical advice is that children are less likely to contract the disease, and less likely to experience consequences from it,” Mr Hunt told ABC Radio.
“There is no question that nobody is immune from this. But what we are doing here is taking the best medical advice in the country and yes, there will be others who will have different views. At many stages along the way people have thought the measures that we’ve taken have been too far, too fast, too extreme, too much.”
Mr Hunt said they were deeply engaged, talking to other countries and comparing their approaches.
“Whether you’re talking about Singapore or other places, schools continue in many of those places, otherwise children will be with grandparents,” he said.
“Children will be in a situation where a social worker has to come out, and many children have been in uncontrolled situations, milling around shopping centres and behaviour which is precisely the opposite of that which you are talking about (isolation).
“Schools themselves (are) doing a tremendous job in adapting and performing social isolation.”
Capricornia MP Michelle Landry said all leaders on the National Cabinet had agreed it was safe for children to go to school.
“(The) leaders agreed that we cannot see children lose an entire year of their education as a result of school closures caused by COVID-19,” Ms Landry said.
“If parents choose to keep their children home from school, parents must be responsible for the conduct of the children and to ensure they adhere to the social distancing arrangements in place.
“Parents must be aware that while the majority of adults who contract COVID-19 have mild forms of the virus, the elderly or those with comorbidities can have more significant symptoms.”
She said the health advice on schools had not changed from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, as the Chief Medical Officer said Tuesday, “the risk to children of coronavirus is extremely low”.
“We’ve had hardly any cases in children, in primary school children and the international experience is that it is a very, very low risk of symptomatic infection,” she said.
“I want to thank all of the teachers and staff in Capricornia who have been working through the stress and strain in our schools.
“This certainly is not an easy time but I think they have been doing a magnificent job in ensuring our children are still receiving an education.”
Education Minister Grace Grace said her government was continuing to follow the expert advice from the nation’s Chief Health Officers to keep schools open for now.
“Should that advice change, our instructions to school communities will change,” Ms Grace said.
“If a child is well and not subject to quarantine directions, we encourage them to attend school.
“But parents and carers may elect to keep their children home during this time. “
She said families could access curriculum materials via the new learning@home resource hub available through the Department of Education website.
“This hub provides a sample of activities to support students to continue their learning as well as links to a range of high-quality public learning sites,” she said.
“Nothing is off the table when it comes to arrangements beyond the next school break.”
Keppel MP Brittany Lauga said the health, wellbeing and safety of students, teachers, teacher aides and staff in CQ was a high priority.
“I understand that some parents are anxious right now, but we all have a role to limit the spread of coronavirus here in CQ,” Ms Lauga said.
“That’s why we have increased cleaning and introduced social distancing measures at our schools.”
Rockhampton MP Barry O’Rourke said these were uncharted waters for everyone and information was being updated regularly.
“Now is the time for us to stick together – not be torn apart,” Mr O’Rourke said.
“We take expert health advice all the time, whether that be from doctors, nurses or specialists. And currently, the expert health advice is that it is safe for students to attend school.”
- Leighton Smith