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We are being warned by health experts and people overseas that sending our children back to the classroom could be our “worst nightmare”.
NSW is pushing to have Year 12 students back at school on August 16 to complete their final year of schooling.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian outlined plans last week for a stadium in Sydney's west to be converted to rapidly vaccinate 20,000 Year 12 students in five days from August 9.
However, many health professionals, and teachers, are warning against the move given the prevalence of coronavirus in Sydney. On Wednesday alone, there were 233 new cases of Covid-19 recorded.
Epidemiologist Dr Zoë Hyde tweeted that sending kids back into the classroom with the Delta variant “is one of the worst things you can do”.
“Schools are a major driver of community transmission,” Dr Hyde tweeted.
“School closures were the most effective intervention to slow the first wave of Covid-19.
“This doesn’t mean school closures are desirable, since they are associated with harms, but it does show mitigation measures are required in schools if they stay open.”
Children are vulnerable to Covid, says head doctor
Dr Mark Kline, Physician-in-Chief at Children's Hospital New Orleans, told a press conference earlier this week the Delta Covid-19 variant is every epidemiologist and disease specialist’s “worst nightmare”.
Dr Kline added there was a “myth circulated” last year that children were immune to coronavirus.
“It has become very clear that children are being heavily impacted by this organism (and) by this pandemic at this point. Perhaps more than ever before,” he said.
Year 12 should not go back, AMA says
Australian Medical Association President Dr Omar Khorshid told reporters in Perth last week the situation in Sydney is “catastrophic”.
“There is no need for the additional risk of bringing Year 12 back to school, bringing teachers back to school, putting those teachers at risk, putting the families of those teachers, the other staff, the cleaners, the people in the canteens, and of course, the families of Year 12 students themselves,” he said.
“Putting all those people at risk just for this purpose seems nonsensical to the AMA.
“And we call on the New South Wales government to revisit that decision, especially if cases continue to rise over the next couple of weeks, which is likely, unfortunately, to be the reality.”
School students spreading virus in Queensland
Covid-19 cases are being linked to a number of South East Queensland schools as Brisbane City and 10 other LGAs remain under lockdown. Cases have been identified in students.
Five Brisbane Grammar School students, a teacher and a parent were identified as cases with the Delta strain on Wednesday.
The NSW Premier told reporters on Wednesday there will be some form of face-to-face teaching in August but was awaiting further health advice.
“We also hear all the time that principals and parents would like as much information as possible,” she said.
“So clearly we know what the virus is doing in some parts of Sydney, but in other areas like the Central Coast and Shellharbour and Wollongong we have seen a very, very low to zero number of cases.
"In other parts of Greater Sydney, especially the eight local government areas there is obviously a high viral load. So it won't be uniform. Can I stress that?”
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said last week her department was working closely with NSW Health to ensure the return of HSC classes and the subsequent exams happened in a Covid-safe way.
"I find it disappointing that organisations, who should put the interests of students first, are effectively lobbying for the HSC cohort in Greater Sydney to stay at home and miss out on the opportunity for face-to-face learning, particularly when health experts have advised that students are able to return with the measures we will have in place," she told AAP.
NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos told AAP he was "deeply concerned" by the safety risk posed by COVID-19 to students and teachers.
He has asked the premier to "reconsider her decision to allow Year 12 to return to face-to-face teaching with such a high number of infectious cases in the community".
Students last year began returning to the classroom when there were only five locally transmitted cases and the health and safety of teachers and students should remain paramount, he said.
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