Transmissions will rise once schools go back but experts say it’s the right move

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Children of essential workers will get to go to school on the first day of term one in every state and territory, as the federal government’s health experts predict coronavirus transmissions will rise once classrooms reopen.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison also said if states and territories choose to do surveillance testing in line with the educational advice from their own experts, the federal government will fund half the costs of the tests.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says schools will open for the children of essential workers.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

He said national cabinet, which met on Thursday afternoon, discussed schools with the overarching view of getting children into classes and keeping them there.

“There is a lot of discussion today about where the various states are up to and the pandemic and where the crest of the pandemic is,” he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

“So states are tailoring that regarding the opening arrangements, that they will be consistent with the principles of getting schools open and keeping schools open and that is especially true from day one, term one, for those children of essential workers.

“Even in Queensland and SA, where they will have different opening arrangements for essential workers. Their kids will be able to go to the schools, which is very important for the impact they can have on the labour force.”

Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said he shared some modelling with state and territory leaders showing that every January there is a drop in contact between people as they go on holiday.

“That transmission potential, as we call it, will increase as schools go back,” he said.

But he said all the medical experts agreed schools needed to reopen.

“That is important. The reasons, health, physical, mental, social, developmental for children. We need to take that on its merits and balance like we have been doing for essential workers, that issue,” he said.

Mr Morrison said it was not the medical advice that schools do surveillance testing, but if states and territories choose to do it based on the educational advice they get, then his government will financially support them.

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