Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for EDUCATION, CHILDREN and YOUTH, Mr JAENSCH
Yesterday, 957 Tasmanians tested positive to COVID-19. Our active case load of 5037 people has been climbing every day since 15 February when there were about 3000 active cases. You have been silent on the impact of COVID-19 in schools. Parents and teachers have no idea about how many children are infected or the impact on classroom teaching and safety. Many of them are anxious about this.
Will you give an update to the House today about the total number of COVID-19 cases and outbreaks in primary and high schools? How many students and teachers have had or currently have COVID-19? How many teachers have been furloughed or returned to work COVID-19 positive with an exemption?
Mr Speaker, I thank Dr Woodruff for her question and her interest in this important matter. The latest figures that I have in government schools in particular indicate that as of Monday, which is the latest period for which we have full figures, of 60 000-odd students across our government school system, we have about 1600 active cases. The very good news is, thankfully, that those cases generally are experiencing mild symptoms -
Ms O'Connor - You have been told not to use that word by the World Health Organisation itself.
Mr SPEAKER - Order, Ms O'Connor, order.
Mr JAENSCH - These cases are not in our schools. These children are at home. They have been tested at home. They have been kept at home and two-thirds of them are continuing to learn from home as well, using our online platform. There is minimal disruption to their learning, which is what our school environments are all about.
Dr Woodruff - Are they primary or high schools, minister?
Mr JAENSCH - Our latest advice is that there are no school-aged children being treated for COVID-19 in our state's hospitals, which is very comforting. It is something we continue to monitor very closely but it does put the lie to some of the extreme and rather hysterical statements that Ms O'Connor made yesterday and that she has been making over the last couple of months.
Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Mr Speaker. I take offence at that, because the minister is implying that the reasonable comments that were made by the Leader of the Greens about the impact of long-COVID-19 -
Mr SPEAKER - It is not a time for a statement. What is the point of order? It is not a point of order. It is not an opportunity to make statement. Please sit down then.
Mr JAENSCH - What I am attempting to do is to share with the public, through this parliament, the fact that the experience of COVID-19 in our schools is within the parameters that we expected -
Dr Woodruff - You have no idea about long-COVID-19.
Mr SPEAKER - Order, Dr Woodruff, order.
Mr JAENSCH - that we have planned for. The incidence of cases is currently being managed adequately through the planning that we put in place for weeks one to five. We are under way with planning for weeks six to 10 of the school year. We are watching the daily figures very carefully. While cases have been higher among cohorts where there is less mask-wearing, where there is -
Ms O'Connor - Unmasked, unvaccinated.
Mr SPEAKER - Ms O'Connor, I officially warn you. I am not going to put up with this all morning.
Mr JAENSCH - less, at this stage, vaccination. We are still leading the nation in the vaccination rates for the years 5 to 11 cohort. None of those -
Dr Woodruff - None of them have been properly vaccinated.
Mr SPEAKER - Dr Woodruff, if you do not want to have a warning then please be silent. You have asked the question; the minister is answering it.
Mr JAENSCH - We do not have school-aged children being treated for COVID-19 in our schools at this stage. We are very grateful for that. We monitor it very closely. It is very important to put on the record that the plans we have put in place, the circumstances we have anticipated are, to a large extent, unfolding as we had anticipated. We will continue to monitor them. Our plans are adequate. They are guided by Public Health. We have had wonderful cooperation from our schools, our school communities, parents who have been listening, who have been receiving information, who have been looking out for symptoms, who have been testing their kids at home and keeping their kids at home, supporting their learning at home so that they can return with minimal disruption.
I understand that there is acute interest in the community and we share the concern. We are on this. We are watching the figures very carefully -
Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked about the furloughing of teachers, specific information. This is not the update that was requested in the question. Will the minister provide an update for the House?
Mr SPEAKER - I cannot put words in the minister's mouth.
Dr Woodruff - No, it is not, there is no breakdown of primary and high schools.
Mr JAENSCH - Mr Speaker, I will look into further data regarding breakdowns and ensure that I have up-to-date data. We receive data from our school system as well as from Public Health and I will provide what I can.