I have been monitoring closely the information about the COVID-19 virus. We have received, this week, information from Independent Schools Queensland and the Anglican Schools Commission, both of whom have been accessing the best advice on this issue. I believe their perspective provides significant insight into the situation as it is presently known and also valuable advice for the months ahead.
Independent Schools Queensland has advised:
“As you would be aware, last month the Australian Government announced new measures that specifically address travel restrictions from mainland China.
Over the weekend, the Government announced updated restrictions which now include travel from Iran. This is consistent with the travel restrictions in place for Australians returning from mainland China.
Students or staff cannot attend school or childcare centre if they have:
These are important preventative measures that have been put in place in the interests of public health. I do not expect that these travel restrictions will significantly impact upon any of our day-to-day school operations and I want to reassure you that we will continue to work to ensure any disruption is minimised.
Anyone who has completed the self-quarantine period of 14 days and shows no symptoms of illness is eligible to return to work or school.
If your children are unwell or show symptoms of illness, they should see their doctor. As always, the health and wellbeing of your children, and our staff, remains our number one priority.
We continue to take advice from Queensland Health and the Department of Education in relation to this matter and the latest information is available at novel coronavirus on the Queensland Health website.”
The Anglican Schools Commission has provided the following considered opinion:
They “urge you to seriously reconsider any international travel plans you have in the foreseeable future. In other states a blanket ban has been placed on all school related overseas travel by staff and students.
As we approach the school holidays at Easter there will be students, staff and families choosing to travel during this time. [They ask us to] make staff and families aware that as the situation changes rapidly, the Government advice on overseas travel may change by the time school holidays arrive.
There is the possibility that both staff and students may be required to be isolated at home for a period of quarantine even if they are returning from countries not currently listed under the Australian Government’s Do not Travel list on Smart Traveller. The list currently includes China and Iran. There are four other countries on the next listing of ‘exercise a high degree of caution’: South Korea, Italy, Japan and Mongolia. Students/staff returning from these countries will be required to undergo a period of isolation for 14 days, exhibit no symptoms of illness and obtain a medical certificate before returning to school.”
Clearly, it would be sensible to assume that the COVID-19 virus is likely to continue to spread and that the key response available to the government, in the absence of a vaccine, is to restrict travel and impose quarantine obligations on individuals and communities. To avoid interruptions to educational programmes, we are going to need the cooperation of the community to respond as requested to the advice offered and restrictions required.
Mr Peter Crawley