In another sign of easing COVID-19 restrictions, all Queensland school students will be back in the classroom by the end of May, the Premier has announced.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said schools were expected to be fully operational from May 25 if the number of new COVID-19 diagnoses remained low.
In a staged approach from next Monday, kindergarten, prep, tears 1, 11 and 12 will go back to school. A decision about further returns will be made by May 15.
“I understand that it’s been a lot of stress on everybody,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“We know that there may be some hiccups along the way but this is a measured and responsible plan that we’re taking to the Queensland community.”
Any rise in cases before then would mean plans changed.
“Hopefully we’ll have all of our schools back and hopefully it will be without incident,” she said.
“If there is an outbreak or if there’s community transmission, then our plans may change, I have to be honest about that.”
Three more people were diagnosed with the virus overnight after recently returning from overseas.
Australia’s chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy has warned it will be a slow road back to reality, with health authorities wary of a second wave of infections.
“The lessons we have learnt from overseas is that if you go too quickly and open up things too quickly, you can get a second wave,” he said.
Meanwhile, NSW is also planning a staged return to classrooms from May 11.
“If the first two weeks go well, there’s no reason we can’t expedite all students having full-time face-to-face teaching by the end of May, that’s our target,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Monday.
Safety measures will include staggered start and finish times to reduce the numbers of adults coming into contact with each other.
The medical advice has consistently been that children are less likely to contract and spread COVID-19 than adults.
Schools in South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory have been open for learning as normal in term two, although attendance has been down.
WA has strongly encouraged year 11 and 12 students to attend classes in person and banned parents from school grounds.
But Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, who was accused of a failure of leadership by federal Education Minister Dan Tehan on Sunday, said the case of a teacher coming down with coronavirus showed how fragile the situation was.
But Mr Tehan’s comments, which were made in an ABC interview and later withdrawn as “ancient history”.
“Comments were made yesterday morning, a statement was issued after that and that’s the end of the matter as far as I’m concerned,” Mr Andrews said.
Tasmania also continues to advise parents to keep children at home unless they have no other choice.
The ACT has issued similar advice. Its public schools remain changed, apart from nine designated hubs where parents who have registered can send children.
The ACT government has said it will look at a staged return to classrooms during term two.