COVID-19 restrictions to be eased in WA schools as state announces record 8,910 new cases – ABC News

For the latest flood and weather warnings, search on ABC Emergency
Western Australia has recorded its highest daily number of new COVID-19 cases at almost 9,000, as the government also announced a significant easing of restrictions in schools for the start of term two.
One person aged in their 80s died from COVID-19 yesterday, and there were also five historic deaths reported, all men and women aged in their 70s and 80s.
As well as the 8,910 new cases, there are 219 patients in hospital, including six in intensive care.
There are now a total of 49,796 active cases in the state.
WA Education Minister Sue Ellery has set out the rules that will apply when students return to school after the holidays on April 26.
Parents will be allowed back onto school grounds, but mask-wearing will still be required.
"Today's announcement aims to give school staff a level of certainty about what school will look like before they head into the holidays," Ms Ellery said.
Read our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic
Parents will be allowed to attend year group assemblies and face-to-face parent-teacher meetings, as well as volunteering at school, like working in the canteen or uniform shop.
They will also be able to watch their child at outdoor school events.
Here's what you need to know about new COVID rules coming into effect next Thursday in WA.
Parents of children at boarding schools will be allowed to visit the residences, as long as they comply with proof of vaccine and mask requirements.
"I know this will be welcome news for parents whose children attend school away from home," Ms Ellery said.
Under the eased school restrictions, P&C meetings will once again be allowed too.
Indoor events at school involving more than one class of students will be permitted, but masks must be worn.
Indoor and outdoor sporting events and inter-school sporting events will be allowed to have spectators.
Performing arts, musical and band performances have also been given the green light, with 75 per cent capacity limits.
Single-year group assemblies only will be allowed, but must be held outdoors or in well-ventilated places.
School balls are also back on, on and off school sites, as long as they comply with any mask-wearing, proof-of-vaccination and density limit restrictions.
But Ms Ellery said school camps would still be off "due to the risk they pose to COVID-19 transmission and disrupting student learning".
Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson will review the school camp ban at the start of term two, in four weeks.
The government will distribute an extra one million rapid antigen tests in public and private schools across the state for staff.
The Department of Education will also install another 2,000 air purifiers as the colder months approach.
Ms Ellery also confirmed Dr Roberston had agreed to reduce the contact tracing burden on schools.
Hospital case numbers are below what was expected, and WA could be on track for the soft landing Premier Mark McGowan promised, writes Keane Bourke.
Schools will only have to identify close contacts within their school, not when contact has occurred outside of school.
The amount of information schools have to provide when there is a positive case is also being reduced, so that in public schools the forms they have to fill out will have seven fields instead of 21.
"The aim is to reduce double handling of information and COVID-19-related workload pressure in schools wherever it is possible," Ms Ellery said.
Primary school leaders welcomed the reduced contact tracing workload but said some of the changes announced today were not new.
WA Primary Principals Association president Neil Smith said schools had been having events on school grounds for some time, and parents had always been allowed on site.
"From our perspective, many of those things are already in place," Mr Smith said. 
"We welcome any changes where school leaders get a reduced workload in tracing and tracking."
Staff who work with children with disabilities are being given access to extra RATs.
Ms Ellery pointed out those staff were the hardest to replace if they contracted the virus or had to self-isolate, because they did such specialised work.
"Not everybody can do that work, not everybody is qualified or skilled to do that work," she said.
"So I would say where the staff pressure is the greatest, it's in those schools. Nevertheless, they're still managing it."
Commenting on today's COVID-19 numbers, Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson reiterated authorities were most closely watching hospitalisation and intensive care rates.
She said while it was hard to say if the peak in cases had been reached, overall new cases were higher than modelled, but hospitalisation and intensive care numbers were almost half what was expected.
"It's those numbers that have given the chief health officers confidence to recommend a cautious step-down to level one," Ms Sanderson said.
On Thursday, most level two restrictions will be eased, including the need to check in at a wide range of venues.
But indoor mask-wearing will still be required.
Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson's advice said ideally restrictions would not be eased until two weeks after the peak, expected to occur around the end of this month.
But Ms Sanderson denied restrictions were being eased too early.
"[The advice] says if you choose to move earlier, you do it with a cautious approach and move in a cautious step-down," she said.
"And we have followed that advice to the letter".
See our full coverage of coronavirus
We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn, and work.
This service may include material from Agence France-Presse (AFP), APTN, Reuters, AAP, CNN and the BBC World Service which is copyright and cannot be reproduced.
AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time which is 10 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)

source

Leave a Comment