PM: Kids could miss ‘year of education’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended his policy to keep Australian schools open despite the coronavirus pandemic, saying shutting them now could lead to children missing a "whole year of their education."
Speaking on Sky News Wednesday night, the PM said Australians need to wake up to the fact that social distancing measures will be in place for at least six months and could get tougher yet.
"There seems to be a view … that somehow you can just turn the tap off for two weeks and all of a sudden we've got through the coronavirus, that's just not true," he said.
"People who are thinking about it in those terms are really not understanding the scale of what's happening here."
"Six months is in indicative and I certainly don't think at this point that it will be any less than that," he said.
The PM said social distancing measures are designed to be sustainable and may be scaled up in future.
In regard to the decision to leave schools open which has been a source of criticism and confusion for governments in Australia and the UK, he said it's a balance of weighing up health advice against the economic impact of the closure.
"What you do, you've got to keep doing for the next six months. Shut them down, they won't open again. And that means your children will miss what is effectively a whole year of their education.
"Now if there's not a good health reason to do that and risk the child's education or cause them rather significant economic cost...you should keep the schools open. And that's why I've formed such a strong view on this."
On Wedneday governments in Scotland and Wales announced they would close schools after staff losses due to isolation made continuing as normal unsustainable. The English govenrment is expected to follow suit.
Meanwhile Italian and French authorities cracked down on those not obeying lockdown laws. Italy's Lombardy Governor Attilo Fontana said he would be asking the central government for stricter measures to keep people at home. Paris police have already issued more than 500 fines to those violating bans against non-essential movement.
Mr Morrison reiterated the fact that eight out of ten people with coronavirus are likely to get a mild illness and said Australia needs people to continue going to work including healthcare staff and those who do critical jobs like keep the supermarket shelves stocked.
He said the government is also looking at ways to "cushion the blow" for those running small businesses as the virus had "pushed pause" on the global economy.
"This is on a scale that none of us have seen before unless we have been around this planet for a very long time," he said.
"There will be a bounce back, there will be a return. There will be that uptick."
The government has already told Australians not to leave the country and banned non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people.
Restrictions have been put in place for visitors to aged care homes and Australians have been warned to stop hoarding groceries.
National coronavirus cases are approaching 560, an increase of 400 in five days, and six people have died.