Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

Here’s what you need to know this morning.

COVID-19 closed 40 schools last week

two young boys going to school with backpacks on
Today, years 2 to 11 return to school after months of homeschooling.(ABC News)

Schools across New South Wales are welcoming the rest of the students back into the classrooms today after four months of homeschooling due to COVID-19 related lockdowns.

Students in years 2 to 11 return for face-to-face learning, after kindergarten and years 1 and 12 students returned last Monday.

All teachers must be vaccinated, and face masks are mandatory indoors for teachers and students ages 7 and up.

NSW Education says 40 schools were closed due to COVID-19 last week when students’ staggered return began.

A spokesman for the education department said the affected schools closed to conduct contact tracking.

At least seven of them are to be reopened today.

Schools are back, but not all teachers are

Teachers have until November 8 to be fully vaccinated, and while 96 percent have had two shocks, concerns have been raised that thousands will be absent from schools today.

But Education Secretary Sarah Mitchell said the schools were well prepared, with only 70 out of 2,200 needing staffing assistance.

“The department has worked very closely with these principals directly to provide the relaxed staff they need to ensure schools can function,” Mitchell said.

She also said the return to school COVID plan took into account the possibility of closures.

“Plans really minimize mixing and mixing, so if we have positive cases, the smaller number of students will be identified as close contacts. Vaccination also helps with that.”

Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet also acknowledged the challenges, but said “we must move on”.

Barilaro fronts ICAC today

a man looking at the camera bending his lips and a woman in separate picture talking
The list of witnesses for ICAC’s second week hearings includes John Barilaro and Gladys Berejiklian.(AAP: Joel Carrett, ABC News: Tim Swanston)

Former Deputy Prime Minister John Barilaro will present today the Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) investigation into Gladys Berejiklian.

This week’s witness list also includes Mrs Berejiklian, who is scheduled to meet on Thursday and Friday.

Her ex-boyfriend, disgraced former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire, is scheduled for Wednesday.

Barilaro oversaw the Regional Growth and Environment Fund when the $ 5.5 million grant to the Australian Clay Target Association was awarded to Maguire’s former voters.

Barilaro is not under investigation.

The grant for clay targets and another for Wagga Wagga’s Conservatorium of Music are the two case studies ICAC uses to consider whether Ms Berejiklian has broken public confidence or closed her eyes to alleged corrupt behavior under her circumstances.

On Friday, the ICAC heard that funding for the second phase of the conservatory’s foyer had been dropped.

Non-emergency surgery resumes

a hospital worker wearing headgear, hospital tunic standing while putting on a mask
Elective surgery has been on hiatus since August due to the Delta outbreak.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

Elective surgery returns to NSW public and private hospitals from today.

As a result of the Delta outbreak, non-urgent elective surgery was canceled in Greater Sydney in August to help the hospital system if it was overwhelmed.

NSW Health said high vaccination rates and declining transmission from the community meant that non-emergency surgery could now be resumed.

The president of the Australian Orthopedic Association, Michael Gillespie, said it was good news with a large backlog of joint replacement surgeries required.

“People have been waiting at home and enduring all the disabilities that come with a chronically stiff and painful weight-bearing joint,” Dr Gillespie said.

Elective surgery will initially be limited to 75 percent in public and private hospitals.

Jury trials resume

The city’s jury trial will resume across NSW today.

Only fully vaccinated jurors are allowed and there will be rapid antigen testing.

Capacity in courtrooms is reduced and face masks are mandatory.

Jury members are also expected to comply with rules on social distance and hand hygiene.

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