Major flaw in Covid-safe back to school plan revealed

As children prepare to return to the classroom, a major flaw in the back-to-school Covid plans in NSW and Victoria has been exposed with a startling number of parents saying they won't be following the guidelines.

A third of parents said they won't be following the government's rapid antigen testing recommendations according to a recent survey.

In Victoria, parents are 'strongly recommended' to test kids every two days for the first four weeks of school. NSW is also recommending students take a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) twice a week in the morning before attending school for the first four weeks.

Three students wearing masks as they head back to school.
High school students will have to wear masks indoors when they head back to school. Source: AAP

The research was conducted by strategic insights consultancy Nature from January 25 to January 28, based on a sample of 1000 parents with children in primary and high school in NSW and Victoria.

Parents hesitant to test kids biweekly

The research showed 30 percent of parents don't plan to test their children, raising concerns parents may stockpile the RATs.

The research also revealed 39 per cent of parents said they would prefer to save any RATs provided by the government for another occasion, rather than testing on their kids twice a week.

"So 30 per cent is probably a best case scenario," Nature’s Managing Partner, Chris Crook, told Yahoo News Australia.

"It raises the concern, what is the point of having the policy in the initiative and making the investments at all, [if] some parents are going to do it and some are not so effectively?

"[It] is arguably defeating the purpose of the entire thing."

A close up on someone using a rapid antigen test.
Students are required to return negative RATs before attending school. Source: AAP

'Opens the door to stockpiling tests'

The research said 58 per cent of parents think that they agree with the government policy, with 70 per cent saying plan to test their children twice a week as required.

Fifteen per cent of parents say they will only use a test if their child has symptoms, and 13 per cent plan to test once a week or less.

Two per cent of parents say they will never test.

Mr Crook said at the end of the day, it "doesn’t matter" if people think it’s a good or bad policy, but if it is actually going to control the spread when children are back at school.

“By not having tests done at schools or having parents show proof of testing, it opens the door to all manner of stockpiling and selling of a commodity which right now is pretty hot," he explained.

“The research suggests that the best efforts to keep Covid-19 out of schools aren’t going to be as successful as the policy is designed to be."

In Victoria, masks and air purifiers were delivered to schools across the state in the lead-up to classes returning, as well a third Covid vaccine dose was mandated for school staff amid the Omicron wave.

The schools testing regime will run for four weeks before it is reviewed. A similar plan has been announced for NSW schools after collaboration between the two states.

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