School return to test NSW COVID-19 prep


The NSW government’s COVID-19 readiness is set to be tested on Tuesday as thousands of public school children head back to class.

Catholic school children across the state returned to school on Monday but most state pupils start their new year the next day, sending thousands of students back to the classroom amid the state’s Omicron outbreak.

Deaths caused by COVID-19 fell back to 27 on Monday, while the state registered 13,026 positive cases in the latest reporting period.

There were 2779 COVID patients in hospital, 185 of whom are in intensive care.

With students returning, Premier Dominic Perrottet unveiled on Monday a $155 million scheme for parents of primary school students to get access to $500 vouchers to help with the cost of before-and after-school care.

The vouchers will be available through Service NSW, from February 28, via the same app used to distribute the Dine and Discover vouchers rolled out last year, the government says.

It is the latest in a series of moves to ready the state for the new school year, including the government distributing around eight million rapid antigen tests in preparation for classes.

Strict anti-virus protocols have also been implemented including improved ventilation, vaccinations, mask wearing, twice weekly RATS, and the segregation of year groups, it says.

In addition to schools, the government is focused on keeping businesses afloat, with Treasurer Matt Kean reiterating his plea for the federal government to provide further COVID-19 assistance for Omicron-hit firms.

The state has unveiled a $1 billion support package for businesses hurt by Omicron, but Mr Kean wants the federal government to also pitch in.

The new business support includes a payment of up to $5000 per week, or 20 per cent of payroll, for firms with a turnover between $75,000 and $50 million who suffered a 40 per cent downturn in January, and are projected to do the same in February.

“The NSW government is doing its bit and will continue to call on the Commonwealth to stand by small businesses,” Mr Kean said on Monday.

However NSW Labor leader Chris Minns described the business package as “too little too late” for struggling NSW enterprises.

“You’ve got seven weeks since the Omicron wave smashed the NSW economy and some businesses will have to wait an extra month until money is in their account, it’s just not good enough,” Mr Minns said.