NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has said rapid antigen tests will play a role in the government’s strategy to get children back to school for term one as the state’s COVID-19 situation worsens. worsen.
“We see a role in rapid antigen testing…as we open schools…and that’s why we’ve bought tens of millions of them here in New South Wales,” Mr Perrottet told reporters on Tuesday. journalists in Sydney.
He said he would not provide “routine comment” on how the kits would be used, but confirmed they would be available for “frontline service delivery” such as students and teachers.
More details would be provided after NSW met with other states and territories at the national cabinet on Thursday, he said.
The Prime Minister’s comments come as NSW reported its deadliest day of the pandemic on Tuesday with 36 deaths, less than a fortnight before school starts on January 28.
As the situation worsens, only around 11% of children aged 5 to 11 have received a dose of the vaccine, fueling concerns about school safety as the first term approaches.
Under a plan reportedly being considered by NSW, pupils would be asked to take RATs home twice a week in a bid to control the spread of the virus in the schoolyard.
With around 1.2 million pupils in NSW, the plan would involve the use of around 24 million hard-to-find kits over a 10-week period, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
That would see RATs delivered to every public, Catholic and private school student in time for the first day of school, News Corp reports.
Meanwhile, independent schools have reportedly been told to ask parents to supervise pupils, fearing that up to 20 per cent of staff could be absent at any given time.
Likely staff shortages have also reportedly prompted the government to consider recalling retired teachers and accelerating the tracking of final-year university students to fill staffing gaps.
Mr Perrottet said whatever plan NSW schools have in place to manage COVID-19, safety will be paramount.
“It is extremely important for our children’s academic performance, their mental health and their social understanding that we are able to get the children back as quickly as possible,” he told reporters.
“That’s why we’ve made a commitment here in NSW to do it on day one, quarter one.”
The Independent Education Union, which represents more than 3,200 teachers in non-government schools, has urged the Prime Minister to abandon “wacky ideas” to address future staffing shortages.
“The government should focus on a safe return to school plan that facilitates adequate ventilation and easy access to free rapid antigen tests and booster vaccinations,” the acting NSW branch secretary said on Tuesday. / ACT of the union, Michael Wright, in a press release.
“Fast-track accreditation is also difficult. Support staff undertake work essential to the functioning of schools – rushing them into classrooms will only create different shortages.”
Australian Associated Press