Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Health spokesperson
With just three weeks until school returns, parents are anxious to hear the Government’s COVID safe schools plans. But instead of overseeing this critical planning stage, Minister Sarah Courtney has gone on holiday.
Given the widespread, rapidly moving community spread of COVID in Tasmania, parents and teachers are incredibly anxious about the return to school date of 9th February. They’re wondering how it will be possible for the Government to ensure schools are safe when so many children remain unvaccinated.
The Premier refused to open the borders until he was confident more than 90% of over 16 year olds were vaccinated. What is his target for school children, who will be unprotected at the start of school?
It will be many months into the school year, at heroic estimates, before a reasonable number of school children would be double-dose vaccinated and receive some immunity from potential serious COVID illness. Until then, and afterwards, it is essential the Government makes school environments as safe as possible from airborne spread of Omicron.
Concerns about school air safety are particularly acute for students with disability. Despite strong advocacy from disability organisations and the Greens, the Government has so far ignored the higher risk that COVID presents for these children.
Today we’ve written to the Education Minister to highlight the many safety issues the Government has so far failed to address. Apparently the Education Minister – also Minister for Hospitality, Events and Small Business – is taking a holiday, so we’re not hopeful of getting a response any time soon. This is shades of Matthew Groom, who stayed on holiday at the height of the Basslink energy crisis.
The Gutwein Government is asking healthcare workers to cancel their leave so they can help deal with the current COVID situation, but their own Ministers won’t do the same to deal with critical and urgent issues of child safety. It’s shameful.
We hope Minister Courtney immediately returns to work, and steps up to support parents and teachers who are confronting serious questions about how to keep children safe.