As the new school year begins, the NSW Government is taking precautionary measures to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, urging students who have visited China in the last two weeks not to attend school or childcare services until 14 days after their departure from the country.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard and NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said although the risk to children is very low, the NSW Government has taken this step as a precautionary measure.
“I’ve been advised that it’s not medically necessary, but the NSW Government has acted in line with community expectations to ensure the safest possible environment for our students,” Minister Hazzard said.
“The internationally recognised incubation period for the coronavirus is 14 days, so this is the logical timeframe to ask students to refrain from attending school. After this time, there is no risk.”
Advice not to attend school has also been provided to any close contacts of confirmed coronavirus cases.
The Association of Independent Schools NSW (AISNSW) has given its support to the NSW Government’s proposals to minimise the spread of the coronavirus through schools, with advice to be forwarded to the state’s almost 500 independent schools to help inform their own decision-making.
“Many independent schools have already taken measures appropriate to their particular circumstances,” said AISNSW Chief Executive Dr Geoff Newcombe AM.
“This latest advice will be provided directly to all independent school principals to ensure they are in the best possible position to safeguard the health of their students and staff.”
Dr Newcombe said schools normally accommodated students who were forced to miss school due to adverse circumstances, such as the current medical risk. “I am confident that students who are asked to stay home during this period will not be disadvantaged in their learning,” he added.
The death toll from the novel coronavirus has passed 100, with infections spreading at a rapid rate across the world, particularly in China, where the virus began. In Australia, five cases of coronavirus have confirmed – four in NSW and one in Victoria.
NSW Health has been contacting passengers who were on the same planes as confirmed cases to provide appropriate advice and has processes in place to identify any close contacts of cases confirmed in Australia. All cases had travelled to Wuhan, China or had contact with a confirmed case in China.
Minister Mitchell said the Department of Education has issued guidance to schools and childcare services across NSW on protocols in the event of a child becoming sick.
“Although the risk remains very low for children, we believe it is the right thing to do to take this extra step and will continue to update the community with advice,” Minister Mitchell said.
Anyone who develops a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath within 14 days of travel to China or contact with a person with confirmed coronavirus, should immediately isolate themselves from other people, contact their GP or local emergency department or call the healthdirect helpline 1800 022 222.