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Minister Must Act on School Covid Risk

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 8 February 2023

Tags: COVID-19, Schools

Cassy O'Connor MP | Greens Leader

The Minister for Education needs to tell the community what his plan is to protect Tasmanian students - and the wider community - from the Covid risks resulting from today’s return to school.

The start of the new school year means 60,000 children and young people are returning to Tasmanian public school classrooms for the first time in months. Given ongoing persistence of Covid in the community, the mixing of vast numbers of young people in closely confined settings is an obvious risk for significantly increased transmission.

It’s no wonder many parents – especially parents of children who are immunocompromised or who have a disability - are concerned for the health of their children. These concerns are entirely reasonable – after all Covid is a dangerous and highly infectious virus.

We know attendance rates are already under pressure in schools. There’s undoubtedly a range of factors behind this, but clearly one of these is the recognition that schools can be a higher risk site for Covid infection.

With chronic understaffing already a feature of the public school system, we know this can be exacerbated further by transmission in schools. Fewer educators at work also inevitably has an impact on educational outcomes, and on the welfare of all staff.

The Rockliff Government has put its head in the sand on Covid for more than a year now, but the Minister for Education needs to understand this is a real issue for parents, students, and educators. This issue won’t go away just by telling people not to worry.

The best way of dealing with community concern about the Covid safety in schools is to make sure we have a transparent and comprehensive plan for ventilation, air filtration, and infection mitigation in schools.

This needs to be supported by a strategy to increase the flagging vaccination rates in young people.

Protecting the health of young Tasmanians needs to be a core priority of government.