Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Health spokesperson
Today’s declaration of a state of emergency and implementation of tighter border restrictions were welcome moves by the Premier. To further mitigate risk, he should also now move to close Tasmanian schools.
The Tasmania Branch of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation has added its voice to the growing number of teachers, parents, and medical professionals calling for all schools to close.
The United Kingdom waited until an advanced stage of the pandemic, and then reactively made the decision to close schools.
Instead of delaying this in Tasmania, the Premier should make the most of this chance to reduce community spread and close our schools for an extended Easter break of at least six weeks.
School closures should be accompanied by special arrangements for the children of healthcare workers, so they can stay in the workforce. It’s also critical that government closure plans address the needs of vulnerable children who would normally access support through their school.
While children often do not show symptoms of COVID-19, they can still become infected and spread the virus to vulnerable family members.
The strong advice being given to all Tasmanians is that we should practice physical distancing, but this measure can’t be effectively applied to schools. Children - especially primary school students - don’t properly understand, and aren’t capable of adjusting instinctual behaviours.
Many children travel to and from school on crowded buses, and are constantly in close proximity during class and in breaks. Enforcing effective infection control, through hand hygiene practices, is also highly challenging in school environments.
We hope, as with the border control measures, the Premier will take the opportunity to be proactive and close our schools.
Everything that can be done early to reduce groups of people mixing in enclosed spaces will help limit the spread of this deadly disease. It is the best public health intervention we can take to protect vulnerable people.