News National Two million students back in classrooms in sign life edging towards a new normal

Two million students back in classrooms in sign life edging towards a new normal

Parents and students arrive for the return of classes at Annandale Public School in Sydney. Photo: AAP
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Almost two million students returned to classrooms across NSW and Queensland on Monday in the latest sign life is edging towards a new normal under the shadow of coronavirus.

An estimated 1.2 million students in public schools returned to classrooms across NSW while Queensland welcomed 600,000 students back on Monday after almost two months of learning from home.

Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT are staging staggered returns, while schools in South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory are already open.

Victorian students in grades prep, one, two and years 11 and 12, and special schools will open on Tuesday with the remaining grades three-10 back on June 9.

Overnight, there were three new cases of COVID-19 in NSW and another two in Victoria. No new cases were reported in other states.

On Monday, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt praised Australians for doing a “magnificent job” in reducing the spread of the coronavirus.

He said more than six million people had downloaded the COVIDSafe app.

“We’re now at 0.6 per cent positivity over all of the tests we’ve conducted, one of the lowest rates in the world,” he said.

Australia has 7112 cases of COVID-19, with 6509 of those recovered. Only 32 people remain in hospital, five of those on ventilators. The death toll stands at 102.

Mr Hunt said many of the new cases were people in hotel quarantine. But he said Australians should maintain social distancing and keep washing their hands.

“There will be choke points. We encourage [people] to be absolutely alert because any one of us can save a life and any one of us can inadvertently risk a life,” he said.

“Now is the moment where, as we have greater freedoms, we need greater vigilance.”

Parents happily returned their kindergarten students to classrooms on Monday. Photo; AAP

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state’s transport networks didn’t “buckle” under pressure with many students walking, dropped off or taken dedicated services to schools on Monday. An estimated 110,000 students normally catch public transport in Sydney alone.

“Can I thank parents for listening to our advice in relation to not only schools being open and safe, but also in relation to how students get to school,” she said.

Federal Labor’s early childhood education spokeswoman Amanda Rishworth wants schools to be given more hygiene and learning resources to cope with the return.

“This is a good day but we need to make sure schools have the resources and the support,” she told Sky News.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said all students were back at school after preps, years one, two, 11 and 12 went back two weeks ago.

“Students are greeting each other, happy to see their friends and going back into their classrooms. It is wonderful to see the whole school community coming back at one,” she said.

JobKeeper to be reviewed, not expanded

The Morrison government is resisting calls to expand its wage subsidy program after a humiliating $60 billion blunder, which saw the estimated cost of JobKeeper reduced from $130 billion to $70 billion.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has signalled casuals who have clocked up less than a year with their employer and migrant workers will not be included in the scheme.

However, the tourism sector could be in line for extra JobKeeper assistance to stir it from the coronavirus coma.

South Australia opens up

Cinemas, theatres, galleries, museums, beauty salons, gyms and indoor fitness centres across South Australia will be able to open from next Monday, with the SA government bringing forward the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions.

Those venues, along with pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes, will be able to admit up to 80 patrons, provided they can contain them to groups of 20 in discrete rooms or areas within the business.

Pubs will be able to serve alcohol without food but only to seated patrons.

Rules allowing one person per four square metres, and 1.5-metre social distancing, will remain.

Up to 50 mourners will be allowed at funerals, while competition for outdoor contact sports can resume from June 25.

The state government has been accelerating its plans to reopen the economy, including with a surprise decision to open pubs last Friday evening.

No new positive coronavirus cases have been recorded in South Australia since May 7, keeping the total at 439, with four deaths.

The west goes travelling

All Western Australian regional travel bans, except in the Kimberley and some remote areas, will be lifted in time for the WA Day long weekend, the state government says.

“Effective from this Friday May 29 … WA’s regional travel restrictions will be eased significantly further,” WA Premier Mark McGowan said on Monday.

“From Friday travel around WA will be permitted everywhere except the areas bounded by the Commonwealth biosecurity determination and 274 remote Aboriginal communities.”

WA’s internal borders were reduced from 13 regions to four one week ago.

But calls for the final restrictions to be lifted continued to grow amid fears for business and tourism operators who remained cut off from Perth visitors.

Mr McGowan said the changes meant West Australians would be free to travel to all regions except the Kimberley and designated biosecurity zones.

WA has reported four new cases of coronavirus on Monday, bringing its total to 564.

The four cases are in one Victorian family who returned from overseas on May 17 and had to quarantine in a Perth hotel before flying home.

-with AAP