More than 100 places – including schools, hospitals, supermarkets and airports – are now connected to Queensland’s growing cluster and there is particular concern about the number of children with the coronavirus.
A third of the people who have recently caught COVID-19 in that state are kids. Six schools are on alert, including Ironside and Indooroopilly state schools where several students have tested positive.
Brisbane Grammar confirmed in an email to parents on Monday night that another two students had the virus.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton is the most high-profile parent to be forced into quarantine after his sons’ school was linked to the cluster. Mr Dutton tested positive to the coronavirus last year and has since been fully vaccinated.
He can do his job by ‘zooming’ in to meeting from home during his isolation period.
Other impacted parents in essential jobs can not. On Monday, Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young warned the region’s healthcare workforce had been “destroyed” by the outbreak in schools, with doctors and nurses in isolation after their children were exposed.
Concerns over school clusters has prompted the government to rule that more teachers will work from home to prevent the spread of the virus.
In New South Wales, meanwhile, plans to get senior students back to class have caused outrage amongst teachers and some health experts.
There are also concerns for a cluster at a nursing home, while the government has issued fresh alerts for exposure sites at takeaway shops, supermarkets and a post office.
We’ve wrapped up the key lockdown developments for you:
Expect more cases in children
Dr Young has warned she’s expecting “a lot” of new cases in coming days due to new infections being found in unvaccinated children who are more likely to spread the virus.
She urged every Queenslander, regardless of where they live, to get tested at the first hint of any symptoms.
The state government has announced support payments of $5000 for small and medium businesses hit by the lockdown, as Acting Premier Steven Miles warned employers not to misrepresent people as essential workers when they were not.
From Wednesday, there will be a “skeleton staff” at schools in Queensland lockdown areas, meaning most teachers will work from home.
In a statement on Monday night, the government said only the minimum number of staff would be required onsite to avoid the further spreading of COVID-19.
Minister for Education Grace Grace said it was under the advice of the Chief Health Officer that in the 11 local government areas (LGAs) in lockdown, the number of people at schools was minimised to “absolute essential needs”.
“Queensland has done so well in keeping COVID-19 out of our schools up until now, but the Delta variant is a different situation,” Ms Grace said.
“The number of staff at each school will be based on the number of children in attendance and student learning needs.
“Options such as rotation of which staff are on school sites over the next few days are being considered for implementation.”
Kids who need to be on campus, such as the children of essential workers or vulnerable children, would be in class in small group of up to 10 where possible.
“I thank everyone in our school communities for their hard work, flexibility and cooperation over the last few days,” Ms Grace said.
The Courier Mail reports that boys and girls from Brisbane Grammar School are among the latest cases.
“Queensland Health has tonight confirmed two further Brisbane Grammar School students have tested positive for Covid-19,” an email to parents reportedly said.
“BGS now has four confirmed Covid cases – three students and one parent.”
Earlier on Monday evening, Brisbane Girls Grammar School parents were also advised that a student had tested positive.
St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School has also been newly listed as an exposure site, as has a netball club, a karate club and a playground.
Those sites are all connected to children who have contracted the virus.
- Click here to see the full list of Queensland exposure sites
NSW teachers want changes
In Sydney, about a quarter of COVID-19 cases recorded in the current outbreak have been in teenagers or children.
With most students in the city currently studying at home in lockdown, there are no new exposure sites listed at NSW schools this week.
- Click here to see the new NSW exposure sites
Teachers fear that could change when year 12 students are allowed to travel across the city, including to and from hot spots, with concern about safety while teachers and children are not prioritised for a vaccine.
The Sydney Morning Herald broke down data which showed schools in hotspot areas draw students from almost 100 postcodes and suburbs where COVID-19 is rife.
Students in their final year are meant to be starting back on campus in two weeks.
SMH reports the NSW Teachers Federation has not ruled out taking strike action.
The Independent Education Union has also criticised the plan to open up on August 16 and is demanding an urgent “rethink” by the government.
It said schools should no longer be exempt from rules for other workplaces.
“School staff are also rightly concerned protective measures that were in place in 2020 will be ineffective against the Delta variant and it is impossible to keep schools safe with large numbers of students on site,” the IEU said.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said students from hotspot areas would have the option of being vaccinated.
Students can book to have their shots at Qudos Bank Arena from August 9.
The government also said schools would use rapid antigen testing.
Alarm at nursing home
Of more urgent consideration than the future of schooling is the current risk to elderly residents.
A COVID-19 outbreak at an inner west Sydney nursing home has reached 20 people and the residents of an entire floor have been moved to hospital.
NSW recorded 207 new local COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday, as well as the outbreak’s 15th death – a man in his 90s.
It comes as 20 virus cases were uncovered at Wyoming Nursing Home in Summer Hill, including 18 residents and two staff members.
Seven of the 18 infected residents were unvaccinated.
All residents on one floor have been taken to hospital as a precaution. Ten of the facility’s 61 residents and one in four workers were unvaccinated.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard told reporters on Monday that a ‘Christmas in July’ event was linked to the spread of the virus in the facility.
“Sometimes it isn’t a good idea to have a ‘Christmas in July’ right in the middle of a pandemic, but I do understand that it is an effort to try and provide entertainment and support to residents,” he said.
Of the 207 new cases, 40 per cent were in southwest Sydney and 25 per cent were in western Sydney. At least 72 of the cases were in the community while infectious.
Nine News reported on Monday that a COVID-19 case had also been confirmed in a staff member at Westmead Hospital in Sydney’s west.