Sydney: Australia’s state of New South Wales (NSW) on Sunday announced a Covid-19 smart plan which aims to minimise the risk of infection after returning to school amid an uphill battle against the current wave of the pandemic.
As part of the new measures, every student and teacher in NSW government and non-government schools will be able to receive rapid antigen test (RAT) kits before in-person classes begin on February 1, reports Xinhua news agency.
Surveillance testing will be conducted twice a week for primary and high school students, school staff, and early childhood staff.
Surveillance testing will be undertaken for the first four weeks of term, with two weeks of supply distributed before term starts.
Face masks are mandatory for all staff and high school students and are encouraged for children in primary schools.
There will be limited interaction between different year groups, and schools have to limit visitors.
A number of staffing contingencies are also in place including utilising retired and studying teachers in case there are disruptions to the workforce.
There are heated debates as to the most suitable time to reopen classrooms as NSW remains the epicentre of Australia’s current wave of Covid-19 pandemic.
The state recorded 20,324 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday.
Despite the relatively flat epidemic growth curve in this week, the number of hospitalisation and deaths remain high, with 2,712 hospitalization and 34 deaths recorded on the same day.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said supporting students to return safely to the classroom is vital after two years of disruption to their education.
“Students learn best at school, some students have spent a quarter of their schooling at home. We’re committed to bringing students back safely,” he said.
The government is distributing more than 12 million RATs to over 3,150 government, non-government schools, and early childhood centers to assist with surveillance testing of staff and students, Perrottet said.
The state has started vaccination for five to 11 years old children.
The latest figure shows that 26.5 per cent of eligible children in NSW have received their first doses.