News Coronavirus Tasmania records two new COVID-19 deaths as schools return
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Tasmania records two new COVID-19 deaths as schools return

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The percentage of children "on track" across key development measures has fallen due to the pandemic. Photo: AAP
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Tasmania has recorded two new coronavirus deaths, as the island state’s back-to-school plan is put to the test on the first day of term one.

The deaths, reported on Wednesday, take the state’s pandemic toll to 22, with nine of those occurring since borders reopened in mid-December.

Tasmania has reported 574 new infections, a slight drop on the 601 recorded on Tuesday.

Ten people are being treated in hospital for the virus, with one of them in intensive care.

It comes as some 60,000 public school students return to the classroom.

The Australian Education Union has raised concerns that already understaffed schools will be further stretched should teachers be forced into isolation.

Several hundred teachers had yet to provide evidence of their vaccination status on the eve of term one, something AEU Tasmanian president David Genford said was alarming.

Acting Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff confirmed 96 per cent of education department staff had registered their vaccination status, describing it as a “very high” proportion in line with community vaccination rates.

There is a vaccination mandate in place for all education department staff.

“The department will continue to work with those who are yet to provide proof of their vaccination,” Mr Rockliff said.

He said the state can call on 1700 relief teachers as back-up to fulltime staff.

Tasmania has advised children to take a rapid antigen test if they are symptomatic, with the state not undertaking surveillance testing like NSW and Victoria.

Deputy Public Health Director Scott McKeown told reporters earlier this week the decision was based on the state’s lower level of transmission.

Mr Genford said only one in five AEU members who responded to a survey said they felt comfortable returning to work.

The AEU has also raised worries about children being provided with ill-fitting adult masks and a lack of proper ventilation in classrooms.

Masks are mandatory for high school students but not primary school students.

Public health officials say Tasmanians should prepare for cases to rise.

Tasmania has 3214 active cases on Wednesday, continuing a broad downward trend over several weeks.

– AAP