Sat. May 28th, 2022

Parents in New South Wales express concern after students may have to take regular rapid antigen tests during the state government’s back-to-school plan.

The official plan will be released on Thursday after the national cabinet, but there are media reports that the NSW government wants students to return two negative tests a week.

Newcastle’s Simonne Pengelly is resigned to living with a new normal, but is also worried about what the new school year will mean for her family.

It’s a troubling time as her 11-year-old son begins high school.

“He has not been able to access a vaccine until January 10, and we were very lucky to secure a vaccine that day after many days of hunting them,” Pengelly said.

Three people huddled together in front of a fence and smiled at the camera
Simonne Pengelly with her son Phoenix and his father, Ben.(Delivered by: Simonne Pengelly)

Mrs. Pengelly also has an eight-year-old.

“Eight-year-olds should be out having fun, they should run around, roll in the ground … and hug their friends,” she said.

“They have not been able to do this for two years, of course it does not really stop them, and no matter how hard you try, I do not know how well an eight-year-old washes their hands.”

Like many parents, Mrs Pengelly is frustrated that children were not able to be vaccinated before.

“There was potential to do things, like in the initial rollout, in the first two weeks to bring the rollout forward and say, get your 10 to 12 cohort vaccinated earlier and remove some pressure from the system,” she said.

“It’s pretty clear that there were unnecessary delays, and it’s our kids who bear the bulk of it.”

Closing of schools ‘a last resort’

Earlier this week, NSW Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet said the government had worked with its Victorian counterparts to adjust the plans as states face similar increases in COVID figures.

“For many of our young children, they have lost a quarter of their schooling,” Mr Perrottet said.

“We saw last year, when we brought schools back, under certain circumstances, schools had to close.

“Now, as we move through this period, my view is that closing schools is a last resort, not the first resort, and we want measures in place to ensure that teachers and children are safe in the classroom.”

Dominic Perrottet says it is encouraging that cases are not rising at an exponential rate
Dominic Perrottet is developing a back-to-school plan with Victoria.(News video)

Chief Medical Officer Kerry Chant on Wednesday urged parents to get their booster shots as soon as possible.

“I also encourage people who have had children to go back to schools to think about you and your extended family and ensure that you are boosted ahead of the school year and also that any older relatives get help to get their booster. ,” she said.

“Yes, when schools go back, there are more connections, different social networks and an increase in cases, but we as a society can take other measures to offset that, but one of the keys is being boosted.”

Ordinary RATs are not the answer

Another Newcastle parent, Richard Ley, is concerned about the possibility that his daughter could transmit the virus to more vulnerable family members.

“It can be more contagious for her if she has only been given one dose,” Mr Ley said.

“She might be taking it home, so it’s important that the rest of us in the family are double-dosed, especially her grandparents and her great-grandmother, who is in her late ’90s.”

Sir. Ley laughed at the suggestion that students could be asked to complete two quick antigen tests a week before class.

“Of course it will not be every day, but if it’s a couple a week, it’s going to start putting the expenses together, and I do not think the people of NSW want it.

“It’s a public health issue and it should be funded by Medicare.”

Mrs Pengelly also does not think it is a workable or practical solution because some children are anxious enough without having to be tested regularly.

“It’s incredibly disturbing for those kids and really disturbing for parents to have to make it happen,” she said.

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