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Tas defends lower student virus testing | The Murray Valley Standard

Tasmania’s public school students return to the classroom this week but they won’t be tested for COVID-19 as regularly as children in some other jurisdictions.

Students are advised to take a rapid antigen test when symptomatic under the island state’s plan for term one starting on Wednesday.

They are being provided with two RATs in a back-to-school pack and can access a further two tests per week from their school if needed.

NSW has adopted twice-a-week surveillance testing for primary and high school students, while Victoria strongly recommends the same level of testing across the first four weeks of term.

State Greens MP Rosalie Woodruff says Tasmania has the “worst back-to school plan in the country”.

Independent upper house member Meg Webb says it would make more sense to pick up cases before they enter the classroom and students develop symptoms.

“We know the Omicron COVID variant is more transmissible than the Delta strain,” she said.

“South Australia has reported that at least 300 school staff were absent on their first school day this term due to COVID, so it stands to reason our school communities may experience a similar situation.”

Deputy Public Health Director Scott McKeown said the testing guidelines were based on public health advice and evidence discussed at the national Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.

“I can understand that parents, carers and school communities are quite concerned about the risk,” he told reporters on Monday.

“But it’s very important that the public understands there are very different levels of risk between people who are older, and people and who are younger around COVID in the community.

“We’ve had very few children (who) have required hospitalisation, with many thousands of cases involving children. It’s a very low risk.”

Other states implementing testing regimes have much higher levels of transmission, Dr McKeown added.

Tasmania recorded 443 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, continuing a downward trend in daily infections since 699 on February 1.

There are 3359 documented active cases across the state, continuing a broad trend lower over several weeks.

Eight people are being treated in hospital for the virus, an increase from the five reported on Sunday. One of them is in intensive care.

More than 56 per cent of children aged 5 to 11 in Tasmania have had one vaccination, the second highest proportion in Australia and 12 per cent above the national average, State Health Commander Kathrine Morgan-Wicks said.

Almost 20,000 children in the age group are yet to receive a dose.

Australian Primary Principals Association president Malcolm Elliott said the different approaches to student testing were “not helpful”.

“We’re a little perplexed as to (when) there is a national cabinet, we can’t have some consistency about how everything should run,” he told ABC Radio Hobart.

Tasmania has had 20 virus deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, with the latest recorded on Sunday, an 89-year-old man who was living in aged care.

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