Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Commonwealth will support states and territories if they implement a COVID-19 surveillance regime for school teachers but not students.
“I think there is a very strong case for supervised testing of teachers,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
“Just like we do with healthcare professionals. I was told that the virus enters such a community mainly through teachers, not through students.”
The premiers and chief ministers of the states and territories of Australia, along with the prime minister, discussed the issue at a recent meeting of the National Cabinet.
“There was a strong opinion about teachers,” Morrison said, adding that the Commonwealth would support any jurisdiction that makes its own call for it.
However, he did not support daily rapid antigen testing for students.
“To be clear, medical advice on this is mixed when it comes to testing students,” he said. “And the medical advice we’ve received, I can’t say it’s categorically in favor.”
Morrison noted that this could give parents and teachers confidence in the education system if a daily test monitoring regimen were implemented.
It would also be good for the economy to get parents and teachers back to work, as the Prime Minister called it in the national interest and the interests of each jurisdiction.
This comes after The Sydney Morning Herald reported, based on anonymous government sources, that the states of New South Wales and Victoria are working on a common return-to-school plan to be presented to the National Cabinet this week that includes a test for students with rapid tests for antigens.
Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus said it was “important” for students and teachers to provide two free rapid antigen tests per week.
“The same will happen with teachers. If you’re taking these tests at home and you know you’re positive, then you can stay at home and not spread the virus to everyone else,” she told Nine’s Today.
Meanwhile, a Brisbane schoolteacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, called the government’s measures “incredibly offensive” and pointed out that teachers should be trusted to “take precautions” if they feel unwell.
“If people were to drop dead on the left, right and center, [then] I fully understand why they (biweekly rapid antigen tests) may be needed,” a source told The Epoch Times. “However, it’s only for the flu and colds, I don’t see the need to do that.”