NSW school return sparks COVID surge fears

Phoebe Loomes |

A rise in virus cases triggered by school children returning to playgrounds cannot been ruled out when NSW students return.

“The numbers will go up and down, and we know that when there’s mixing and (the) introduction of new social networks,” NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said on Wednesday.

A surge in cases can be controlled by the community’s actions, including getting vaccinated, and parents getting booster doses, she said.

Dr Chant urged people with school-aged children to “think about you and your extended family” before the return to classrooms. 

“I can’t stress enough the urgency. We know that booster will increase your level of protection.”

It comes as the state began shipments of 24 million rapid antigen tests to schools as part of a back-to-school proposal that will require students be tested twice a week.

“Schools will be back day one, term one for students, and we are not moving for that, so everyone has to be prepared,” NSW Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell told the Seven Network on Wednesday.

Queensland and South Australia, however, have both delayed the beginning of term one due to concerns over Omicron.

Ms Mitchell said reclassifying teachers as essential workers was an important step in ensuring schools stayed open. Teachers who are close contacts will instead be given rapid tests, and will continue to work if they are well. 

The NSW government announced on Wednesday it had shortened the wait period between second-dose vaccine shots and booster doses. 

Adults who were vaccinated with their second dose three or more months ago will be eligible for a booster dose from Wednesday onwards. The previous waiting period was four months.