13 August 2020

Call for action over COVID-19 clusters in schools

| Kim Treasure
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Batemans Bay high School

Students at two schools in Batemans Bay tested positive to coronavirus this week. Photos: Kim Treasure.

The union representing staff in all non-government schools in NSW and the ACT is calling for decisive action from government given the expanding COVID-19 clusters in schools.

Students at two schools in Batemans Bay tested positive to coronavirus this week, while the cluster linked to a Sydney Catholic school has continued to grow with contact tracers homing in on a retreat attended by several students who were later diagnosed with COVID-19.

The Independent Education Union of Australia NSW/ACT Branch said extra-curricular activities should be curtailed.

“The IEU would find it unacceptable if any of our members were asked to expose themselves needlessly to additional risk by participating in extra-curricular activities such as sporting trips, school excursions, retreats, or other such activities,” IEU NSW/ACT Branch Secretary Mark Northam said.

“We are now calling on the government to provide clear and decisive guidance to schools; in particular, making an explicit recommendation for staff and senior students to wear masks within school settings.

“This aligns with existing health advice that recommends wearing a mask in circumstances where it is not possible to socially distance. This advice must be clearly articulated and conveyed to all school leaders.

READ ALSO Brindabella school board loses another member

“Students in Years 11 and 12 are often working casual jobs, might have girlfriends or boyfriends, and are otherwise mobile in our communities in a way similar to adults.

“The IEU is concerned that our members, and the young people in their charge, are being told there is something exceptional about passing through the school gates that means the COVID-safe precautions we are all undertaking out in the wider community need no longer apply.

“As a result, we are also seeking a review of COVID-safe protocols in non-government schools to ensure the highest safety levels possible are achieved.”

There are currently six active cases in the Eurobodalla. Three cases related to the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club have been released from isolation and are no longer infectious.

The Soldiers Club outbreak led to hundreds of Canberrans being forced to self-isolate; however, there have been no new cases recorded in the ACT for more than a month.

READ MORE Batemans Bay COVID-19 outbreak a threat to Canberrans

A health district spokesperson said three new cases in Batemans Bay were all known close contacts of a recently identified case in the town.

One is linked to Batemans Bay High School, with another case linked to Batemans Bay Public School. The third case is not linked to either school.

Both the Batemans Bay High student and the third case are contacts of a previously reported case from the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club. This brings the number of cases associated with the Soldiers Club to 10.

Both schools were closed for deep cleaning yesterday but reopened today (12 August).

The pop-up clinic in Hanging Rock

The Batemans Bay community has again heeded calls to undergo testing, with long lines at the pop-up clinic in Hanging Rock.

Original Article published by Kim Treasure on About Regional.

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