An empty classroom is seen at a primary school in Brisbane. Picture: Dan Peled/AAP
An empty classroom is seen at a primary school in Brisbane. Picture: Dan Peled/AAP

‘Insane’: 1.5m rule 'not required' at school

The Prime Minister has announced 1.5m social distancing rule doesn't apply to classrooms.

Speaking after today's national cabinet meeting, Scott Morrison said the 4 square metre rule, and 1.5-metre distancing between students during classroom activities, "is not appropriate and not required".

The exemption left some parents confused, but Mr Morrison said the advice from medical experts was clear.

"I can't be more clear than that," he said in a press conference.

"The advice cannot be more clear than that. The 1.5m in classrooms, and the four square metre rule, is not a requirement of the expert medical advice in classrooms."

 

Mr Morrison said that was based on advice from Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.

But people on social media were left confused.

"It's the contradiction that is frustrating," wrote one mum on Twitter.

"If it's safe for kids then open playgrounds for kids, let them have birthday parties … social distancing is hard with kids but also for staff without socially isolating ourselves … lockdown of a different kind."

One man said the move was "absolutely insane" and others questioned the evidence behind the decision.

"I want someone, anyone, to ask how the virus can tell the difference between 17 & 18 year old high school students and 19 year old young adults," wrote another woman.

"The first can be crowded into classrooms with teachers but the second have to sit 1.5m from their colleagues and friends."

Another person wrote, "Why isn't the 1.5m distance required in classrooms? I could still pick COVID-19 up and bring it home to my 85 year old nan in a classroom just like if I went to the shops".

Another said the health advice needed to be better explained.

"This will be one of the most ridiculous statements ever said by a Prime Minister … beyond stupidity," said one woman.

Later in the press conference the Mr Morrison was asked what his message to the teachers unions was, given they were pushing back against the idea of kids going back into classrooms.

Chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy answered, saying we are not seeing evidence of significant transmission among children in schools.

"New South Wales Health have just done a very large study looking at some infections that have occurred in the school setting and have tested a lot of children, and have not found evidence that children are transmitting this virus in schools," he said.

"This is quite different from influenza, where we know they are sometimes super spreaders.

"So, we think the community risk of having children together in a classroom is low. Most children who have contracted the virus in Australia have contracted it in the family home."

Year one students Mia Zhao, Lincoln Palermo and Joosung Byon with teacher Lisa Kent at North Rocks Public School in Sydney before social distancing was put in place. Picture: Britta Campio
Year one students Mia Zhao, Lincoln Palermo and Joosung Byon with teacher Lisa Kent at North Rocks Public School in Sydney before social distancing was put in place. Picture: Britta Campio

 

Prof Murphy said school could be a risk for adult-to-adult transmission, from parent to teacher, teacher to teacher.

"We have made a range of recommendations of keeping vulnerable teachers out of the school environment, practising good distancing in the staffroom, practising good practices when parents bring their children to school," he said.

"And obviously some children may carry the virus from time to time, and practising very good hygiene methods across the school."

Prof Murphy said there had now been a dozen or so school-related cases in NSW and some in South Australia.

"Many countries around the world with much worse epidemiology than we have at the moment that did close their schools are now reopening," he said.

"And we feel - clearly we understand the concern, clearly we understand that in some states there's a gradual return, but we - look, AHPPC advice has not at any stage been that we should close schools."

 

Originally published as 'Insane': 1.5m rule 'not required' at school



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