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Tasmania chooses not to test all children before school returns, believing they are at ‘very low risk’ | The Advocate

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Public Health has outlined why it chose not to recommend mandatory Tasmanian school children undergo rapid antigen testing, describing their risk as “very low” and that other states have higher rates of transmission. Tasmania has less stringent recommendations for testing, including that school children only use the two RATs in their back-to-school pack – and two more per week – if they develop symptoms. In other states and territories, it was recommended that school children be tested before they return to the classroom, and that they undergo two tests per week. The discrepancy in advice prompted concern from Nelson independent MLC Meg Webb, who said the decision to have less surveillance testing of school students meant parents and children were being asked to take on more “risk” than those in other states. IN OTHER NEWS She said there was also little information in the public domain about why this decision was made. Acting director of Public Health, Scott McKeown, said children were at lower risk of hospitalisation than adults. “There are very different levels of risk between people who are older, and people and who are younger around COVID in the community,” he said. “We do know that young children and children are much less likely to experience severe disease and very likely to require hospitalisation.” We’ve had very few children have required hospitalisation, with many thousands of cases involving children. It’s a very low risk. “Other states are putting in place other testing regimes, they have much higher levels of transmission.” Dr McKeown said Tasmania’s advice was based on a review of outbreak data interstate and of trials into the effectiveness of regular RAT use at the end of 2021. Other cohorts in the community – including healthcare workers, aged care workers and people admitted to hospital – have the same advice to only be tested if symptomatic. Each child is provided with two rapid antigen tests in their back-to-school pack, and two per week to use if symptomatic. More than half of Tasmania’s primary school-age children have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccination, with the vast majority of schools to return on Wednesday. State health commander Kathrine Morgan-Wicks said 56.5 per cent of children aged five to 11 had received one dose, giving Tasmania the second highest rate for this age group in Australia. There were still 20,000 children in this age bracket without any vaccination. Almost 99 per cent of Tasmania’s population aged 12 and above have received at least one dose, and 95.6 per cent have received two doses. The booster rate for adults is at 45.3 per cent, and at 44 per cent for those aged 16 and above. Tasmania recorded 443 new cases in the Monday morning report, 3359 active cases and 528 people released from isolation. Fifteen COVID-positive people are in hospital, eight of whom are being treated for COVID as their primary condition. One person is in intensive care. Education Minister Sarah Courtney is expected to arrive back in Tasmania on Wednesday and “officially recommence duties” on Thursday after she tested positive to COVID in France. Ms Courtney has been on holiday in Europe since mid-January, prompting criticism from Labor and the Greens about her absence at a critical time for school preparations in Tasmania. She was due to arrive back in Tasmania last week, but a positive result on a pre-travel PCR test meant she had to isolate before returning. She has now tested negative. Premier Peter Gutwein has defended her travel – which he approved – and said the back-to-school plan had been in the works for several months. “The arrangements for schools have been under construction for a number of months,” he said. “We have had an acting minister in place, parents can have confidence that the plan has been developed and implemented and our schools are ready to go when schools return on Wednesday.” Our workers work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:



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