Barr calls urgent halt to all non-essential travel to protect region, schools to go pupil free

Genevieve Jacobs 23 March 2020 83
Chief Minister Andrew Barr

Auslan interpreter Mandy Dolesji and Chief Minister Andrew Barr at today’s press conference. Photo: Supplied.

The COVID-19 crisis is moving to a new stage in the ACT as the Chief Minister has urged Canberrans to halt all non-essential travel. And from Tuesday, the Territory’s schools will be pupil free until the school holidays following a positive COVID-19 test at Lyneham High.

This brings the total number of ACT coronavirus cases to 20.

As a precautionary approach, the Education Directorate will shut Lyneham High only on Monday for contract tracing and cleaning.

“The situation is moving very fast in the ACT”, Minister Berry said late this afternoon. “On Tuesday all ACT schools will be pupil free. No student will come to school.

“Schools will still be operational, but teachers and school staff will be preparing for a different kind of learning.

“We also acknowledge that the school community and teachers are more and more anxious, making it difficult to offer quality education in person. From Tuesday, teachers and school staff will move towards online education”.

Ms Berry said more information regarding schools would be available tomorrow and that the Education directorate, school principals, P&C organisations and the Education Union would work together to get all information to students and parents.

“There is no greater priority than for us to work together to slow the spread of COVID-19”, Mr Barr said today, following the announcement that the ACT’s confirmed cases of the virus had more than doubled.

Mr Barr said that the only travel should be for work, compassionate reasons and to ensure essential supplies and services. “If you travel here for work or essential services you are a part of the Canberra region”, he said, referring to the “thousands and thousands” of people who cross the border for work, education and business purposes each day.

But a common-sense attitude must pertain to any travel outside the region including trips down the coast for school holidays, to visit family or to Sydney.

While both South Australia and Western Australia have now closed their borders, this is not a feasible step for the ACT and Mr Barr said the Territory would act in close alignment with NSW. It’s expected that this evening’s National Cabinet will discuss how to increase quarantine and social distancing measures.

“The ACT cannot close our borders but we can protect our region”, Mr Barr said, adding that anyone who failed to self isolate if they had returned from overseas travel or were waiting for test results was breaking the law and would put the community at risk.

“We have to take a Canberra region approach and work with surrounding local government and the NSW government. The Canberra region response needs to be uniform across the border. We can’t have different responses in Queanbeyan and Canberra.

“Sydney is a particular concern, Queanbeyan less so when it comes to interaction across the border in NSW”.

People should expect “more and more tough and stringent rules in the days and weeks ahead”. The ACT government is compiling a list of places where people are likely to gather and will shut them down if necessary, or ask the Commonwealth to do so if they are on Commonwealth land.

“This situation is rapidly moving, decisions will need to be taken quickly”, Mr Barr said.

Earlier this afternoon, Education Minister Yvette Berry had acknowledged the efforts of all school staff and communities including teachers, cleaners and ancillary staff for the work they have done in keeping the ACT’s schools “calm confident and happy” as the COVID crisis unfolds.

“Schools are already conducting online learning through mathematics and reading eggs and these can be continued at home online”, Ms Berry said. “The ACT school system is ready and prepared to transition to an alternate teaching method should the decision be made.

“We are well placed for that shift, and we have invested significantly in devices across the school system to ensure we have that digital capability”.

Ms Berry said the Education Directorate was also working closely with independent schools and the Catholic school system to ensure that outcomes aligned.

All school principals will be participating in teleconferencing to ensure this and Mr Barr said that the ACT was not holding back regarding school closures but participating in a national decision. Consideration is also being given to special measures for the children of health care workers.

“In the weeks and months ahead, I cannot stress enough the seriousness of the situation for our country, for our city”, Mr Barr said.

Every decision at every level of government would be painful and would have an impact on the city’s way of life. But Mr Barr said all Canberrans needed to act together as a community.

“Take physical distancing measures seriously. Don’t be close unnecessarily. Avoid all non-essential travel. Wash hands regularly and often, or the consequences will be dire.

“This is an unprecedented situation. We must now all act together to ensure that we stop and slow the spread of this virus. I cannot stress how important it is that people adhere to these arrangements”.

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83 Responses to Barr calls urgent halt to all non-essential travel to protect region, schools to go pupil free
Jaanos Eesti Jaanos Eesti 5:15 pm 23 Mar 20

I hope plans are in place to repeat the entire primary school cohort if the closure goes for more than a term and a bit. The educational disruption from an extended period of on-line/blended learning facilitated by parents will be massive, and should be planned for. I can't see trying to 'catch up' with normal school hours post the pandemic passing working or being sustainable.

Acton Acton 5:03 pm 23 Mar 20

23 March 2020 4.40pm

Pupil free days from 24 March 2020 until school holidays

The ACT Minister for Education and Early Childhood announced that from Tuesday 24 March 2020 all ACT Public Schools will go pupil free until the school holidays, due to begin on Friday 10 April 2020.

ACT schools will remain open to students who need to attend. Schools will still be able to safely receive and provide learning for parents and carers engaged in essential services and unable to care for their children at home, as well as vulnerable children and those with additional needs. Essential service includes health workers, education workers, aged care workers and critical public service workers.

No child will be turned away.
More here:

maxblues maxblues 4:54 am 23 Mar 20

What a great idea that was spending all that money on the tram rather than prioritising improvements to Canberra Hospital. Not!

    TimboinOz TimboinOz 6:59 pm 26 Mar 20

    It is impossible to be right in advance of disasters.
    But, to go ahead with a ‘we hate cars’ investment, opposed b y the Productivity Commisssion when our public hospital system was already in crisis over delays, seems to me, a piece of unforgivable arrogance, by the Greens, and by Labour. Its effects on the public hospital system have been apparent for a good while, and Covid19 will ram the point home. More broadly, interconnection / interdependence will, at last, be seen as the serious risk factor that it has always been.
    Tim Bailey

Kris Whittle Kris Whittle 11:33 pm 22 Mar 20

Please !!!!!!!

Don't come down to the south coast!!!!

We have already got case down here.

We have a large older population.

Our shops can't keep up now!!!

And we dont have medical / hospital resources to cover an outbreak.

Really please coming from someone who has a weak immune system due to health reasons.


Jessica Cariño-Schmidt Jessica Cariño-Schmidt 10:25 pm 22 Mar 20

Gavin Chan I imagine you already know about Lyneham but just wanted to make sure

Rhonda Meiksa Rhonda Meiksa 9:37 pm 22 Mar 20

Not a lot of common sense around I am sorry to say.

Caroline Specker Caroline Specker 9:33 pm 22 Mar 20

What about public transport? Is that shut down yet? It's impossible to do social distancing on the tram

Jennifer Polhuis Jennifer Polhuis 9:19 pm 22 Mar 20

I are the schools closing or not? As Scott Morrison has just said they are staying open?!?!

    Beth Baldwin Beth Baldwin 9:32 pm 22 Mar 20

    Jennifer Polhuis my question too

    Jennifer Polhuis Jennifer Polhuis 9:33 pm 22 Mar 20

    guess we will find out tomorrow

    Amelia Ponds Amelia Ponds 9:34 pm 22 Mar 20

    Yeah I was confused. So closed but open. Or is it closed unless the kids have working parents who can't take time off or kids of healthcare providers?

    School closed from Tues but open till end of term.

    I dunno. Lol

    Denise Helou Denise Helou 9:44 pm 22 Mar 20

    Jennifer Polhuis was going to ask this same question! So confused

    Nicki Greenhalgh Nicki Greenhalgh 11:17 pm 22 Mar 20

    Jennifer Polhuis

    Sunday 22 March - Confirmation of ACT schools response to COVID-19

    Nicki Greenhalgh Nicki Greenhalgh 11:18 pm 22 Mar 20

    Jennifer Polhuis

    ACT schools, government and non-government, will begin pupil-free days from Tuesday 24 March through to the school holidays despite statements from the Prime Minister.

    Triskele Rey Triskele Rey 2:17 pm 23 Mar 20

    education is a state/territory jurisdiction. Scomo can say what he likes. Each state/territory government only can enact changes or keep things the same. Same as hospitals, police etc.

Ursula Gamal Ursula Gamal 8:43 pm 22 Mar 20

Can we isolate ourselves down our south coast?

    Katie Young Katie Young 6:58 am 23 Mar 20

    Ursula Gamal not sure if you’re joking but we’ve all been told to stop unnecessary travel. Stay where you live. ACT hospitals are better equipped to deal with an outbreak compared to small coast hospitals. If you love the coast then do your bit to protect it those who live there.

    Kris Whittle Kris Whittle 4:07 pm 23 Mar 20

    Ursula please be joking.

    Actually no don't even joke about it.

    Please STAY up there.

    Our residents, doctors, hospitals and shops cant deal with the the locals we have.

    Shirley Jaggers Shirley Jaggers 8:12 am 24 Mar 20

    Katie Young thanks Katie, our resources are so stretched, better to stay put

Michael Awwad Michael Awwad 8:29 pm 22 Mar 20

So only 3 weeks???

Gary Murtha Gary Murtha 7:52 pm 22 Mar 20

It’s a joke who’s looking after the teachers kids, get real Barrr!!!!

Amy Jane Hayward Amy Jane Hayward 6:57 pm 22 Mar 20

This is act Katie Monaghan

    Katie Monaghan Katie Monaghan 6:57 pm 22 Mar 20

    Amy Jane Hayward that only for schools not kindy?

Nicole Peisley Nicole Peisley 6:54 pm 22 Mar 20

Marissa Steven You beat me to it 😲😲

Monty Ki Monty Ki 6:45 pm 22 Mar 20

Tak your kids out of childcare and school now, if you haven't already. Don't wait for the government to think for you!

    Suzi Kent Suzi Kent 6:52 pm 22 Mar 20

    Monty Ki I think they are open tomorrow so the teachers can explain to the kids how this is all going to work and answer any questions. I would think it's an important day to attend.

    Monty Ki Monty Ki 6:55 pm 22 Mar 20

    Suzi Kent I removed my child a week ago. Lyneham high has a child diagnosed today who attended last Tuesday before getting sick. It's not worth the risk. An email was sufficient to our school and they have already sent "home schooling" links to us. I don't understand why people aren't taking this as seriously as it needs to be. The cases diagnosed today were infected 2 weeks ago. The people walking around now, already infected, but totally unaware, are yet to be tested or accounted for and will begin to show symptoms in the next few days to 2 weeks. By then, the numbers are going to skyrocket. If you aren't in isolation now, if your kid goes to school tomorrow, their chances of being infected are high now.

    Juls Jefferson Juls Jefferson 7:21 pm 22 Mar 20

    Monty Ki some of us have a job. How can working parents work from home and do their kids online learning?

    Monty Ki Monty Ki 7:24 pm 22 Mar 20

    Juls Jefferson find a way. You are an intelligent and resourceful person. You can do it.

    Mitch Carrington Mitch Carrington 7:25 pm 22 Mar 20

    Monty Ki lol. Great answer for someone with no answer. Let's see how the internet copes 👌

    Juls Jefferson Juls Jefferson 7:25 pm 22 Mar 20

    Monty Ki actually I can't. There is one of me, two of them, full-time job plus 2x schooling. Not possible.

    Suzi Kent Suzi Kent 8:49 pm 22 Mar 20

    Monty Ki I'm a bit sick of other people telling me what to do. I will listen to the advice given by people who actually know what they are talking about, not by random people on facebook! I am also a healthcare professional, thankyou very much!

    Suzi Kent Suzi Kent 8:53 pm 22 Mar 20

    Liu Rui Maybe in your opinion. Not mine.

    Monty Ki Monty Ki 9:00 pm 22 Mar 20

    Suzi Kent ha! So am I. A qualified health research scientist, actually. Best wishes. I hope you do listen to the health experts then. By Tuesday, you will be forced to do it anyway. You will have just added extra exposure risk to you and your family and those most vulnerable around you.

Nat Woods Nat Woods 6:43 pm 22 Mar 20

Lauren Slater you’ve probably seen this or heard about it but just in case you haven’t.

Kelsey Stratford Kelsey Stratford 6:41 pm 22 Mar 20

Jeff Killick it’s all act schools but there was a case in Lyneham

Laura Harding Laura Harding 6:23 pm 22 Mar 20

If kids have to do on line learning I hope we get internet paid for so we can get the kids on line

Diana Nasr Diana Nasr 6:15 pm 22 Mar 20

Delailah I can help out if you need

Alham Nazneen Alham Nazneen 6:14 pm 22 Mar 20

What about childcare centres? Shahrior Aziz

Deirdre Mione Wilson Deirdre Mione Wilson 6:11 pm 22 Mar 20

What about childcare centres

    Monty Ki Monty Ki 6:44 pm 22 Mar 20

    Deirdre Mione Wilson take your kids out now, if you haven't already. Don't wait for the government to think for you!

    Deirdre Mione Wilson Deirdre Mione Wilson 9:10 pm 22 Mar 20

    Monty Ki I don't have kids in childcare. Just throwing it out there for discussion. If I did I would have thought of alternatives and taken them out

    Monty Ki Monty Ki 9:11 pm 22 Mar 20

    Deirdre Mione Wilson so many people haven't yet. It is really concerning. It affects us all.

    Vaishnavi Muralidharan Vaishnavi Muralidharan 9:22 pm 22 Mar 20

    So, if day care centers are advised to shut down, are they still liable to charge fees from parents for the enrolled days?

    Deirdre Mione Wilson Deirdre Mione Wilson 9:27 pm 22 Mar 20

    Vaishnavi Muralidharan I guess youou would need to ask your day care provider. They are private businesses

    Vaishnavi Muralidharan Vaishnavi Muralidharan 9:28 pm 22 Mar 20

    Deirdre Mione Wilson thanks, will check with them!

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