Schools to implement new strict virus measures
While Australian schools haven't closed down - yet - many have adopted strict new measures in response to the coronavirus crisis.
West Australian schools will introduce new precautionary measures, including cancelling assemblies and staggering recess and lunch breaks.
School principals were advised to put distancing measures in place, and ensure students or staff returning from overseas abide by the 14-day self-isolation rules from Monday.
The New South Wales Department of Education also introduced proactive new steps to limit the impact of COVID-19 in schools across the state.
Department of Education secretary Mark Scott announced that schools would also cancel assemblies, excursions, travel, some events and conferences.
Mr Scott said these steps were precautionary and designed to reduce exposure via non-essential gatherings.
"Schools have been a focus of the community and government as the impacts of coronavirus have developed globally," Mr Scott said in a statement.
"From Monday onwards, I expect school assemblies and substantial gatherings to be cancelled, along with all excursions.
"The community expects schools to be as safe as possible. We are implementing these measures to provide peace of mind for students, parents and staff."
In an email to parents, Freshwater's Harbord Public School listed the changes it would make to curb the virus spread:
• Whole school, grade or stage assemblies - including an Anzac Day assembly - have been suspended.
• All school excursions - including school camps - have been cancelled until further notice, and will be rescheduled later in the year.
• All major arts and sports activities and events have been ceased temporarily until further notice. This includes whole school sporting events and inter-school events involving three or more school.
• Parents have been reminded once again to keep their children at home if they're sick. "If your children are unwell with respiratory illness, they should remain at home until symptoms resolves and, where appropriate, seek advice from a medical practitioner," the email read.
"Children with chronic medical conditions or immunosuppression may be at increased risk of disease. Please consider special arrangements for these children, such as home-based study where their learning can be done uncompromised."
Some private schools in NSW have decided to shut their physical campuses and put all their teaching online, according to a report by the Sydney Morning Herald.
"Some schools have advised AISNSW that they will start to change their mode of teaching this week," chief executive of the Association of Independent Schools NSW Geoff Newcombe said.
"This will involve remote teaching of students at home," Dr Newcombe said.
"Some schools with the capacity and bandwidth to do so will teach students online. Others will set tasks and assignments using email."
WHAT ABOUT UNIVERSITIES?
At the University of NSW, where a second case of COVID-19 has been confirmed, social distancing measures will also be imposed.
Teachers and students have been asked to participate in classes remotely where possible, staff are encouraged to work from home, meetings should be held by audiovisual link and non-essential events will be cancelled or postponed.
Preparations at the University of Sydney are also being made if the campus needs to be closed.
In an email seen by The Guardian, vice-chancellor Michael Spence wrote that the university was "preparing for multiple scenarios" including the potential closure of buildings, and "moving as much as our teaching to online delivery mode as possible for the period of the pandemic".
At the University of Queensland, the decision has been made to pause in-person and online teaching on hold for one week, starting today after a third student tested positive for coronavirus last Friday.
"The university will use this time to fast-track transition to the online delivery of lectures," UQ said in a statement.
"When we recommence teaching on 23 March students will receive lectures online and will continue with face-to-face tutorials and pracs/labs in small-group settings. However, campus remains open. Libraries, study spaces and eating areas will still be staffed and accessible."
WHAT SCOTT MORRISON HAS SAID
Yesterday Prime Minister Scott Morrison decided to keep Australian schools open for the time being despite growing calls for them to shut down.
"People are naturally anxious about the issues of schools," Mr Morrison said on Sunday, adding that shutting schools down would do more harm than good in stopping the virus' spread.
"As the British chief medical officer observed over the last couple of days, the issue of wide-scale closure of schools, and it may seem counterintuitive, but the advice is this could be a very negative thing in terms of impacting on how these (epidemic) curves operate."
Mr Morrison said students socially distancing themselves from each other was "pretty straightforward".
"You are (to stay) about 1.5 metres away. Ensuring that you refrain from that sort of physical contact, whether it might be a handshake or something a bit more intimate, unless my close family and friends. It's all common sense."
Mr Morrison said the Government didn't want to leave medical workers looking after their children rather than coronavirus patients, and that the matter would be reassessed on Friday.
In a series of interviews this morning, Today show hosts Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon quizzed Mr Morrison and Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan on why social distancing measures were being put in place while parents were told kids should stay in crowded classrooms.
"The level of discrepancy in the advice is mind-blowing," Stefanovic said.
"It's all over the shop. You're saying at one point that we need our kids at school but also not running around together spreading the virus and they're saying, hang on a sec, we may need to extend the school holidays."
Both Mr Tehan and Mr Morrison defended the government's decision, saying that they were listening to the "very best medical advice available to us".
#NEW St Christopher’s Catholic Primary School Panania in Sydney will close for a day today for disinfecting as a precautionary measure after an attendee at a professional development night last Thursday tested positive for #coronavirus @dailytelegraph pic.twitter.com/6J6QqCHRc4— Clare Armstrong (@ByClare) March 16, 2020
A primary school in Sydney's southwest has been shutdown after a visitor who attended an event hosted by the school tested positive for coronavirus.
St Christopher's Catholic Primary School in Panania confirmed in a letter to parents that a teacher who had attended a Professional Learning event hosted by the school last week had contracted the virus.
While the infected person is not a teacher at the school and was unlikely to have come into contact with any of the students, principal Jamie Wahab said that the school would close for today to allow cleaners to thoroughly disinfect the school grounds.
Sydney Catholic Schools executive director Tony Farley said the school was leaving "nothing to chance".