School testing a matter for the states: PM

Maeve Bannister |

As the back to school date looms for children and teachers across Australia, the federal government is still finalising a COVID safety plan. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the case for frequent rapid tests for school teachers is strong, but the jury is still out on the need to test students.

“The predominant way I’m advised the virus comes into a community like that is through the teachers, not the students,” he said in Canberra on Wednesday. 

“But with Omicron, anything is possible.”

Mr Morrison said ultimately the extent of testing in schools would be determined by state premiers and the federal government would support their decisions.

NSW and Victoria are expected to present a united schooling plan to national cabinet on Thursday.

Plans under consideration include calling upon retirees and final year university graduates to substitute for isolating teachers, and requiring each student to do twice-weekly RATs.

Queensland schools are starting a fortnight later than originally scheduled to allow for more vaccination of staff and students.

Treasure Josh Frydenberg says schools staying open this year is critical for Australia’s workforce. 

He told reporters on Wednesday as the country heads towards the peak of the Omicron wave, 10 per cent of the workforce – or 1.3 million workers – could be absent.

That number could rise a further five per cent – an additional 740,000 people – if schools or childcare centres were closed.