Rapid antigen testing of students and teachers will be a key feature of getting kids back to school in 2022, with New South Wales reportedly to require it twice a week.
More than six million tests will be distributed to schools across NSW before the start of the term to ensure enough supply for the first two weeks, The Daily Telegraph reports.
Every students and teacher will be asked to undertake a rapid antigen test twice a week in order to attend school, the newspaper reports.
All teachers will also have to wear surgical masks but for students a mask will only be required in high school.
The testing regime, which will not be mandatory, will occur for four weeks from the start of school on February 1 and will be reviewed.
Meanwhile Victoria could as early as Sunday reveal its blueprint for protecting students and staff when school resumes on January 31.
It’s expected rapid antigen testing will also form a key part of that state’s strategy after schools were already promised 51,000 air purifiers prior to classes resuming.
Retired or inactive principals and other education staff are being recruited to plug COVID-related holes in the Victorian workforce.
Both NSW and Victoria pitched re-opening plans to national cabinet on Thursday, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison then announcing that the federal government would split the cost with states opting to surveillance-test students and teachers.
Across the nation on Saturday there were 20,148 coronavirus cases in NSW, 16,016 in Victoria, 15,050 in Queensland, 2193 in South Australia, 726 in Tasmania, 666 in the ACT, 314 in the Northern Territory and 11 in WA.
Demand for WA COVID plan
Western Australia’s opposition leader has called on the state premier to set a new date and plan for reopening as 55,127 new COVID-19 cases were recorded across the nation.
Premier Mark McGowan announced the borders would be closed indefinitely during a late-night press conference on Thursday.
He said it would be “reckless and irresponsible” to proceed with the planned February 5 reopening given the surge in Omicron COVID-19 cases across the country. WA recorded 11 new infections on Saturday.
But Opposition Leader Mia Davies said people needed more guidance surrounding isolation rules, density rules and the definition of a close contact.
“It’s seriously concerning that we have COVID-19 spreading in the community already yet have been left in limbo without a plan,” Ms Davies said in a statement.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt doubled down on denials that rapid antigen tests have been requisitioned by the Commonwealth, as supplies remain scarce.
Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey this week published a letter from a supplier claiming the federal government “commandeered” 34,000 rapid antigen tests originally destined for the state’s rail staff.
In a further post on Saturday, a screenshot appears to show a known supplier reached an agreement to provide rapid tests to the federal health department as part of a $26.29 million contract.
“Either the Morrison govt has commandeered the stock using emergency powers, or they’ve swooped in late with a big money procurement offer of $26.29 million that a supplier couldn’t refuse given the massive profit margin offered,” Mr Bailey tweeted.
But Mr Hunt slapped down allegations federal authorities had diverted the tests from the Queensland government.
“The claims that were made about the Commonwealth are false. They had been referred to the ACCC (Australian Competition & Consumer Commission) because they are false,” he told reporters.
“I have confirmed with the Department of Health, the Commonwealth has not received and is not expecting to receive any supply from that supplier until at least February 7.”
He said the federal government provided 200,000 rapid antigen tests to Queensland on Saturday, and rejected suggestions it did not plan well enough to meet surging demand amid the Omicron wave.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the government was warned months ago of the need for widely available RATs.
This came as the COVID death toll is continued to climb across the nation, with 64 more reported on Saturday.