Barr eases lockdown restrictions, students may return to school sooner than expected

Dominic Giannini 1 May 2020 85
Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Education Minister Yvette Berry

Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Education Minister Yvette Berry said there is no timeline on return to schools. Photo: Region Media.

Restrictions on adults visiting family and friends, and leaving the house for essential trips only, have been relaxed in the ACT after today’s National Cabinet meeting.

Following in the footsteps of NSW, Territorians will now be able to attend small gatherings in other households, and non-essential shopping trips will be allowed provided physical distancing is maintained.

Rules around compassionate travel have also been eased. Canberrans are now permitted to travel interstate to visit family and friends, but Chief Minister Andrew Barr urged travellers to use common sense and only travel in small groups.

A return to face-to-face learning could also occur more quickly than expected in the ACT.

Both Mr Barr and Education Minister Yvette Berry have previously stated that students will continue with online learning for as long as necessary, and just a fortnight ago (17 April) Ms Berry said the ACT was prepared to “deliver remote education for the whole of term two”.

While Mr Barr said it was not a race between jurisdictions to get children back into classrooms, schools may return to normal lesson schedules sooner than expected and the ACT Government was working with school communities to achieve that.

“We are preparing to move to face-to-face teaching during term two if the circumstances allow us to do so in a sensible manner. We believe with the position we are in, and where we hope to be in the coming weeks, that will be possible.”

Ms Berry said there was no timeframe set for a physical return to schooling activities at the moment, but today’s language marked a change in tone from Mr Barr and Ms Berry, although the Chief Minister again warned against complacency, expressing his worry about potential second, third or fourth waves that can break out as a result of one case.

“There is a reality that it is not over yet,” Mr Barr said. “Until there is a vaccine there is always a risk that we return to unsustainable daily increases.

“I would not take this as an invitation for visits of six, eight or 10 adults. Certainly, a family unit can visit with children but this is not an invitation to have large dinner parties.”

While other jurisdictions have moved ahead with easing restrictions, including the Northern Territory which will allow pubs to trade from 15 May, Mr Barr said discussions will continue but no date could be put on this in the ACT because of its unique position as the “nation’s meeting place”.

Canberra will always be at a higher risk as people meet in the capital to conduct their business, he said.

Further changes and reductions to lockdown and social-distancing restrictions, specifically around businesses and outdoor gatherings, are on the agenda for next week’s National Cabinet meetings, Mr Barr said.


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85 Responses to Barr eases lockdown restrictions, students may return to school sooner than expected
Sally Mitchell Sally Mitchell 2:49 pm 03 May 20

As a teacher I am concerned for the many students in each school who are in unsafe homes. I am not talking about small numbers here. There are multiple children in every school who are at serious risk. We have to remember that for children who experience physical and sexual abuse and neglect, school is a safe haven. It is not simply a case of arguing for our kids’ education. Regular contact with teachers is a vital link in the chain helping social services monitor students at risk. The 6 week summer holidays are tough for these kids. They have now been at home for a second 6 week block with no respite. With what seems to be a minimal risk posed by the virus to Canberra teachers, we need to carefully consider whether continuing to keep schools closed will cause more harm to children than is necessary. I have three young children at home, two of which I am home schooling and one who is a toddler. I am finding it very challenging to manage my children’s learning at home and I am a teacher! I don’t believe it is sustainable nor necessary for it to continue for the whole of term. And I think it would be wise for the government to advise the community of a start date for schools to return. Provide some hope for struggling parents and vulnerable children. For the parents who prefer to keep home schooling, allow them to do so. For teachers who are over 65 or have health conditions, allow them to work in other roles supporting their colleagues on site from home. But we must allow children to return to school, because for many it is their only respite, and for others it is a life line.

Helen Bull Helen Bull 9:44 am 03 May 20

Are Teachers who are not working still being paid in Public Schools? I’m just curious as so many people are not receiving an income as not working

    Frances Jane Frances Jane 1:18 pm 03 May 20

    Helen Bull all teachers are continuing to work. I've been doing 10-14 hour days. I hope that answers your question. 😊

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 8:09 pm 02 May 20

Some of what was announced yesterday looked like politicians facing up to the fact that people have started voting with their feet, and wanting to get ahead of (or, at least, in step with) that before credibility is lost.

At least, locally, it was done without condescending spin about having “earned an early mark” – which has more than a whiff of the social credit mentality to it, and might best be left to nations which don’t bother with optional extras like democracy.

rsm1105 rsm1105 9:51 am 02 May 20

Do those who were just saying liberals don’t care about kids and teachers have ‘cognitive dissonance’ when they read stuff like this?

Do they ever reflect on their emotionalism over reasoning?

Acton Acton 6:46 am 02 May 20

Barr flip-flops depending on whatever NSW does. Fortunately NSW has a sensible premier.

    JC JC 6:55 pm 02 May 20

    Not sure of on what the flipping or flopping Barr has done. The message from him has been pretty clear and unchanged all along.

    Unlike the NSW premier, especially oddly around the initial plan For schools to go online in NSW and the plan for kids to go back. And let us not forget the flipping and flipping over easing of restrictions one day it is no no no, next day relaxed (presumably after pressure from the PM).

    But hey you know what I don’t think now is the time to be too critical of any pollie dealing with this. I will forgive Gladys because I recognise that there is so much conflicting information, the situation is changing so fast and external pressures to do certain things. Under the circumstances the lot of them including the PM, Barr, Daniels, Gladys and the rest are doing a cracking job.

    But I suspect your comment is just another cheap crack at Barr devoid of fact or evidence because you simply cannot stand the bloke.

Carole Ford Carole Ford 8:38 pm 01 May 20

Slowly, slowly......not catchee Covid19!

Luke VanderLinden Luke VanderLinden 8:24 pm 01 May 20

Geez I’d be dizzy if I did that many backflips in a week!

Nikkie Harper Nikkie Harper 7:01 pm 01 May 20

Jade Marks this, along with NSW gives us the green light to cook! I can’t wait to have a full freezer again.

Steven Harris Steven Harris 7:00 pm 01 May 20

Charis Messalina do you think we could do a quartet plus you?

Melinda Anthes Melinda Anthes 6:21 pm 01 May 20

There’s hope Jess O'Callaghan

Chris Dawson Chris Dawson 6:20 pm 01 May 20

Pat Kennedy...ACT can now visit friends in NSW.

Neil Chandler Neil Chandler 6:08 pm 01 May 20

"As long as social distancing is maintained"... like all the people who were congregating in groups, blocking the aisles at gungahlin woolies this evening while they had a good old chat about nothing in particular with their friends?

    Amir Sharma Amir Sharma 7:22 pm 01 May 20

    Neil Chandler...who did you run into for a chat...lol

    Neil Chandler Neil Chandler 7:50 pm 01 May 20

    Amir Sharma i have no friends 😂

    Alison Manders Alison Manders 3:21 am 02 May 20

    Neil Chandler if what you are saying is correct, Woollies is failing to enforce social distancing. I have had to ‘break up’ multiple similar situations in our store. Under physiacl distancing measures we are required to tell folks to ‘take it outside’. 😉

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 2:02 pm 02 May 20

    I also saw that appeared to be happening at Coles in Manuka a few days ago. Out on a bike ride I decided to stop there on the way home and buy a few supplies. I parked the bike and was about to head down the steps, when I stopped and looked at the mass of people queuing for the checkout. There didn't appear any social distancing. Not for me that, so I left and cycled to a small, less crowded suburban supermarket, where they were practising social distancing, and spent my money there instead.

    Angela Tsang Angela Tsang 3:01 am 03 May 20

    Julie I had to run in there @ 4.45pm today & was shocked by how busy it was, like Friday night shopping with ques of shoppers & people in isles flipping ‘chatting’! There was very little social distancing going on there!

    Janne Elizabeth Bailey Janne Elizabeth Bailey 7:43 am 03 May 20

    Same thing at Westfield Belconnen. You would think some people hadn't seen each other for years

Dana Mary Dana Mary 6:07 pm 01 May 20

Kristy Sumner off they go 🏫 👩‍🎓 👩‍🏫

    Kristy Sumner Kristy Sumner 8:12 pm 01 May 20

    Dana Mary lol

    😅🌟 I’m not counting on it

    Dana Mary Dana Mary 9:05 pm 01 May 20

    Kristy Sumner choosing to keep my hopes high sissy pie 🥧😂😅

Josh Rosner Moore Josh Rosner Moore 6:07 pm 01 May 20

When/if they do decide to return to face-to-face teaching, I look forward to Yvette Berry’s 3 or 4 attempts to explain the decision.

Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 6:04 pm 01 May 20

About time kids should be back it’s just the union for teachers causing undue drama

    Veronica A Acurio Veronica A Acurio 6:10 pm 01 May 20

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves 🤦🏽‍♀️ undue drama, how naive

    Jill Lyall Jill Lyall 6:17 pm 01 May 20

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves are you saying teachers don’t have the right to be in a union and have their health and safety protected?

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 6:25 pm 01 May 20

    Veronica A Acurio there is no risk to kids so yes it’s is undue drama. Got nothing nice to say don’t comment

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 6:26 pm 01 May 20

    Jill Lyall no they can be safe but kids and their education is important. If teachers are concerned that much find a different job, cause apparently they can’t do this one

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 6:27 pm 01 May 20

    Veronika Sain that’s NZ not here

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 6:30 pm 01 May 20

    Veronika Sain they are reopening the schools in a few weeks so I think we will all know how safe it is etc.. Teachers union is putting in there 2 cents worth that’s why we aren’t back to school now

    Bekah Glaz Bekah Glaz 6:35 pm 01 May 20

    Perhaps if YOU can't say anything nice, you should say nothing.

    Mark Maddock Mark Maddock 6:38 pm 01 May 20

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves "there is no risk to kids so yes it’s is undue drama."

    What makes you think there's no risk?

    Jesse Mahoney Jesse Mahoney 6:43 pm 01 May 20

    You're causing undue drama. Teachers have a right to a safe work environment.

    Linda Meulen Linda Meulen 6:44 pm 01 May 20

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves Hey Natalie! It’s not the unions it’s the fact that we are people who have a right to a safe working environment!

    I want to be back in a classroom when it’s safe to be there for all of us and my family!

    Teachers or unions do not say when we go back. State and territory governments do!

    I am so sick of being bashed from every direction and working 12 - 16 hrs a day to compensate for the situation so my students get what they need. Enough! 😡 I’m a person!

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 6:44 pm 01 May 20

    Mark Maddock it’s a low risk should i say cause I listen to the Federal health minister and the PM who know a lot more then some Chief medical officer in the ACT. Kids can’t transmit to other kids or teachers

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 6:47 pm 01 May 20

    Bekah Glaz goes for you too

    Sophie New Sophie New 6:47 pm 01 May 20

    Natalie Hi Natalie, now that we’re one week down of learning from home, just wanted to check in to see how your child is going? As you mentioned the other day that your child attends Cranleigh, and all ACT public special schools are currently open, I just thought I’d see how this week went at school for your child ☺️

    Julie Maynard Julie Maynard 6:51 pm 01 May 20

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves actually, kids do carry the virus.

    Veronica A Acurio Veronica A Acurio 6:54 pm 01 May 20

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves didn't realise the teachers meant nothing to you. Wonder if you would say the same in that position. Not naive then, just inconsiderate, selfish, or both?

    Mark Maddock Mark Maddock 6:57 pm 01 May 20

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves kids CAN transmit. Where are you getting your information from?

    Kelly Ryan Kelly Ryan 6:57 pm 01 May 20

    I have no issues with schools being closed till we know it's completely safe for our kids to be there.

    I will not send my kids if I feel there is any chance of them catching something that will be passed to me and then possibly onto vulnerable members of our community.

    The teachers have my full support in whatever decision is made and they are doing a excellent job in this pretty shitty situation.

    Sam McCracken Sam McCracken 7:03 pm 01 May 20

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves have you been watching what’s happening with children in the UK? There is a risk to children, children certainly do get the virus but the evidence so far is showing they are less likely to get as sick as “at risk” adults. However, there are still children who fall into the “at risk” category and I’m sure there are teachers who also fall into this category. Your information is incorrect.

    Sam McCracken Sam McCracken 7:10 pm 01 May 20

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves The Chief Medical Officer in the ACT is a qualified medical doctor...the Federal Health Minister and PM are not....and yes, kids can transmit to other kids and teachers, the same as adults can transmit to children and other adults.

    Paul Leins Paul Leins 7:39 pm 01 May 20

    The average age of teachers is about 50. Very compassionate of you

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 8:30 pm 01 May 20

    Sophie New it went ok he doesn't have his usual teacher, so daily meltdowns have gone from 1 a day to 3 a day , I am lucky if I am asleep before 2am. No one thinks about the special needs children , they have routines and he attends currently twice a week as he isn't coping like I would like him to be. He will not learn anything till F2F teaching is back and that makes me very sad and upset 😥

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 8:31 pm 01 May 20

    Veronica A Acurio cause my child is my priority not the teachers, they have a job to do like all essential workers, the kids will suffer not the teachers

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 8:32 pm 01 May 20

    Paul Leins then maybe they need to stay home and iso or get a new career

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 8:33 pm 01 May 20

    Sam McCracken very l0w risk ...

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 8:34 pm 01 May 20

    Veronika Sain not spreading anything no one else has heard all over You Tube kids are low risk ...

    Sam McCracken Sam McCracken 8:38 pm 01 May 20

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves that’s not what you originally said. You said there’s no risk and that children can’t get the virus or spread it. Home learning is tough, I have 4 children in all different year levels and a baby as well, no one is disputing it’s tough and I’d like nothing more for my children to be back in school and things to go back to normal. But that will happen when the time is right.

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 8:41 pm 01 May 20

    Julie Maynard yes they are low risk though... if the elderly are prone or vulnerable May be they should stay isolated as the world needs to start and will restart in a week , so the virus will be everywhere if it's not contained already. Opening schools will protect our kids more than being home with their families.

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 8:42 pm 01 May 20

    Veronica A Acurio actually that S not the case. I just care about my special needs son getting the adequate support he needs

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 8:44 pm 01 May 20

    Veronika Sain NZ not here, different country , different way of dealing with containment of this virus

    Mark Maddock Mark Maddock 8:45 pm 01 May 20

    The needs of your son don't outweigh the needs of others actual lives.

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 8:45 pm 01 May 20

    Mark Maddock your opinion...

    Paul Leins Paul Leins 8:49 pm 01 May 20

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves You should share this conversation with all those teachers whose support you require, and desperately hope they have the compassion you clearly lack

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 8:52 pm 01 May 20

    Paul Leins sorry they support me and want to go back to work... I know a few teachers and they are sick of remote learning too, so your point... not everyone wants to remote learn you know ...

    Paul Leins Paul Leins 8:54 pm 01 May 20

    All teachers prefer face to face learning. Teaching remotely isn't why they got into the job.

    Paul Leins Paul Leins 8:54 pm 01 May 20

    It's great your sample size of less than 10 agree with you, but they don't get to make decisions for a whole workforce. That's kind of one of the things unions are for

    Jill Lyall Jill Lyall 10:03 pm 01 May 20

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves what is happening in your home that makes you think kids are more protected in schools than they are at home with their families?

    Sophie New Sophie New 10:58 pm 01 May 20

    Natalie good to see it went ok. It’s tough at the moment for any child, so I do appreciate how tough it is for your special needs son. Perhaps if you’re able to, have a chat with the school. This week has been tough at schools as well, trying to navigate their way through something they’ve never done before. Moving forward, his classroom teacher may be able to provide some additional support - whether that’s onsite at school when he’s there, or online via Google Meet. I know the school I work at has very much so taken into account the needs of students and families that require additional support. No - it’s not going to be the same routine he’s always had (I understand how important routine is for these little guys) but the world we’re living in right now just isn’t the same one we’ve ever known. Good luck Natalie, take care!

    Alison Manders Alison Manders 3:14 am 02 May 20

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves if kids are safe why was my son’s school the first in the country to get closed down because a kid at school had it ? That case lead to several other cases. My kids will not be going back to school anytime soon. I am more than happy with the work both they and their teachers are putting in. Do you even have kids “. 🤨

    Chris Skene Chris Skene 10:28 am 02 May 20

    “I listen to the Federal health minister and the PM who know a lot more then some Chief medical officer in the ACT”... how naive can you get?

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 10:29 am 02 May 20

    Alison Manders yes 3 so what's your point??

    Alison Manders Alison Manders 10:31 am 02 May 20

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves that it has already been shown in the earliest days of the virus in Canberra that kids can and do spread this virus. Sorry, but I thought that was made clear in the rest of my comment. 😕

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 10:31 am 02 May 20

    Jill Lyall nothing except them not getting a education

    Jill Lyall Jill Lyall 10:33 am 02 May 20

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves They can get an education under lock down, the teachers have worked to make sure they can, using online method. But you used the word "protected" so I found that confusing.

    Ken Mansell Ken Mansell 11:32 am 02 May 20

    Everyone, this so looks like a pile on a mum of a special needs kid at the absolutely amazing Cranleigh Specialist School (but only slightly less amazing than the most amazing school in the universe - Malkara Specialist School). I volunteer at Malkara and I have learned that not only is each child at these schools a pleasure and a blessing to me, but they have by far the most passionate, loving and committed parents you will ever meet. I have never met Natalie, but I am sure she is an amazing mum in a position I don't and will never fully understand. So I am always going to listen and try to understand people who have experience I do not have. Natalie, these are crazy times and I hope and pray your kid is back with their normal teachers very soon and thriving.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 2:15 pm 02 May 20

    And your qualifications for saying this are? Have you done research on this that backs up what you are saying, or just making this up, as most likely suspect you are? From my reading this is still being studied, whether children can pass on the virus, but from what is coming out (early days) it appears they can. The virus is the same whoever is carrying it. Just because children might not be affected as much by it, does not make them less infectious. In fact, if they are not showing symptoms but still have it, this might make them more dangerous. https://7news.com.au/lifestyle/health-wellbeing/pediatrician-says-80-of-children-likely-to-have-covid-19-in-coronavirus-hotspot-c-979588

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 3:07 pm 02 May 20

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves In reply to, “The needs of your son don't outweigh the needs of others actual lives.” you answered, “your opinion...”

    Do you realise, do you even have the capacity of realising, how incredibly, shockingly selfish and self centred you are appearing to everyone here?

    I came back to add this. I wrote that is a hurry, because I was so shocked by you reply. I think I read you had a handicapped son. They would be very hard for you, and I'm sorry for what that must put you through and most of us wouldn't know how difficult that is. You must be under a lot of strain, and possibly near breaking point, which might partly explain your comments here. But please realise that it's difficult to know what others are also going through, besides you. And as difficult as your situation is, also please realise, that you are asking others to put their lives in possible danger for you. No matter how difficult your situation, other lives do matter.

    Ken Mansell Ken Mansell 4:40 pm 02 May 20

    Julie, just because you wouldn't stop... The Chief Medical Officers of Australia, New Zealand, New South Wales, Northern Territory, Western Australia and Such Australia say it is safe for kids to be at school, The Chief Health Officer of the ACT has expressed no opinion (but many of us know what it is... I wonder why she has not publicly expressed a view). The Victorian Chief Medical Officer says he is undecided but believe it will certainly be safe by 1 June. There are no active cases in the ACT. ACT Health has been doing random testing since 6 April and totally open testing since 24 April and have found no cases. COVID-19 infections are less frequently observed in children and present with milder symptoms than in adults and the course of disease in children tends to be milder, shorter and with respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms [Zimmermann P, Curtis N. Coronavirus Infections in Children Including COVID-19: An Overview of the Epidemiology, Clinical Features, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention Options in Children. The Pediatric

    Infectious Disease Journal. 2020;39(5):355-68.]. Child-to-adult transmission appears to be uncommon. In the investigation of the first outbreak in France, one infected child attended three different schools while symptomatic and despite 112 contacts identified (including children and teachers), no symptomatic secondary cases were detected [Danis K, Epaulard O, Bénet T, Gaymard A, Campoy S, Bothelo-Nevers E, et al. Cluster of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in the French Alps, 2020. Clinical Infectious Diseases. 2020.] And just to end the Marist scare, 86 of the 94 infections are completely recovered and the last 8 are at home recovering... no deaths and no long term effects... It is 100% reasonable to believe that kids should be at school as much smarter people than me say they should be - and every education expert says home schooling is very detrimental to educationally disadvantaged children. Now stop the pile on...

    Natalie Anne Hargreaves Natalie Anne Hargreaves 7:24 pm 02 May 20

    Julie Macklin when you are a mother your first concern is your child's welfare, so yes in my opinion as a mum my son's education and welfare comes first ...

    Geoff Dibley Geoff Dibley 9:59 am 03 May 20

    Ken Mansell - you totally nailed this 😊

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 12:20 pm 03 May 20

    Ken Mansell The stated aim in Australia has been to flatten the curve and not to aim for elimination. That's why extra hospital facilities for covid 19 are being built, in case of a second wave. If elimination was the aim, schools would not be opening until at least two weeks after the last case. If by any chance it is eliminated here, it will be by luck and the cooperation of the population; not by policy.

    Ken Mansell Ken Mansell 5:42 pm 03 May 20

    As I said above it’s 28 days without community transmission, which we have reached (It does not apply to OS cases coming back that are immediately quarantined or family member of the OS returners who catch it off them). The only non OS, or from a family member of OS infection we had was on 28 March. Therefore, we know the source of every case in the last 28 days was not within the ACT (including now 9 days of testing anyone who wants)

Scott Pinnegar Scott Pinnegar 6:04 pm 01 May 20

About time

Archie Mac Archie Mac 6:02 pm 01 May 20

They are moving slower than a pregnant snail

JC JC 5:45 pm 01 May 20

Funny I didn’t think the two restrictions that have been relaxed today even applied in the ACT.

I even just googled the restriction on visitors and every article I have found Including one from 2 days ago confirms we in the ACT have always been allowed to have 2 visitors provided social distancing was kept.

    chewy14 chewy14 9:02 am 03 May 20

    It was previously two people total, now the rules are two adults plus their kids.

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