CovidSafe measures to continue in schools

More rapid antigen tests will be sent to schools to accommodate surveillance testing until the end of term 1. 263745_01 PICTURE: ON FILE

Mount Evelyn schools will be receiving more rapid antigen tests after the State Government announced CovidSafe measures in schools and early childhood settings will continue until the end of Term one.

Initially set to run for the first four weeks of Term 1, the measures – including rapid antigen surveillance testing – will continue, while more air purifiers will be sent to schools to keep protecting students and staff.

Some 24 million RATs will be sent to schools and early childhood services across the state to continue the school surveillance testing program to reduce transmission.

Minister for Education James Merlino said, “The 2022 school year has kicked off safely and successfully – and we’re supporting that to continue, with more rapid tests, more air purifiers and higher vaccination rates to keep our schools safe and open.”

According to Burnet Institute modelling, it’s estimated the program has prevented more than 21,000 Covid-19 infections, assuming a 75 per cent compliance rate with screening of students.

Continuing the RAT surveillance for the full 10 weeks of Term 1 is expected to prevent more than 61,000 Covid-19 infections in children aged 5 to 17, more than 150,000 Covid-19 infections in the community (on average 2,100 less infections per day), and around 400 hospital admissions.

The testing settings will remain the same, with all primary and secondary school students and staff, and early childhood education and care staff and children aged 3 to 5, recommended to test at home twice a week, while students and staff at specialist schools are recommended to test five days a week.

With global supply increasing, and in anticipation of colder weather when windows may have to be shut and outdoor learning reduced, the Labor Government will deliver a further 60,000 air purifiers – enough to cover every single classroom in government schools and low-fee non-government schools

This will bring the total number of air purifiers in schools to 111,000 units. The second tranche of air purifiers will start delivery later this term and air purifiers will be with schools by 1 June – in time for the beginning of winter.

Eligible kindergarten services will receive a further $3.8 million in grants to support ventilation improvements and keep children and staff safer at kinder, and give families confidence that early learning is safe. The new grants will be available later this term to support the purchase of air purifiers for learning spaces or other improved ventilation.

Minister for Early Childhood Ingrid Stitt said it’s important to support learning operators while younger children are still unable to be vaccinated.

“Our littlest learners are still unable to be vaccinated – so we’re continuing strong CovidSafe measures to protect kinder kids, and those who care for them, in kinder services across the state,” Ms Stitt said.

The government has also urged parents and carers to continue booking children aged 5 to 11 in for their first and second doses, and staff and students aged 16 to 17 reminded to get their third dose as soon as possible.

School and early childhood staff must receive a third dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by 25 February to continue working in education settings, unless they have a valid exemption. For staff who became fully vaccinated after 25 October 2021, this deadline is 15 March, unless they have a valid exemption.