Back to school 2022-style with RATs and face masks

The start of this school year is like no other.

Besides packing their child’s lunchbox, parents will be using a rapid antigen test they picked up from school to test their child for covid.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said more than six million rapid antigen tests were delivered to 3,000 schools.

Education minister Sarah Mitchell said students and teachers would be tested twice a week for the first four weeks of school.

“It will be up to schools to enforce the testing regime,” Ms Mitchell said.

Parents are having to explain what’s happening to their children too.

Lousie Stuart said it was a tough conversation.

“I broke the news to my eight-year-old daughter this morning about her needing to have a test done twice a week for four weeks,” Ms Stuart said.

“She instantly broke down in tears and requested to stay at home instead.

“It’s going to be a real struggle to get it done every time and something that I believe will concern her as she goes to bed at night worrying about the next morning.”

A Casino grandmother, who asked not to be named, said she would be keeping her granddaughter at home and doing home schooling instead.

“I have heart and lung disease plus other medical problems and my daughter (her mother) has just been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. Her operation is tomorrow, then chemo starts.” she said. 

It’s too risky to us both, to send her to school, she said. 

“Getting kids back to school for the economy at the expense of teachers, admin staff, students, and the health of the economy is a false ideology.  I am so angry, and disappointed  in the state and federal governments for their bad management of vaccines and now RATS.”

As well as the RATS, masks will be compulsory for teachers and high school students. Masks are also highly recommended for students in year 3 and above but are not mandatory.

Ms Mitchell said as well as RAT kits being distributed to schools, air purifiers and eight million surgical masks were delivered as well.

“This has been a military style operation and it has taken an army to get it up and running,” she said.

She said health authorities would no longer be conducting contact tracing and schools would not be closed when there was a positive case.

Parents would be required to tell the school principal when their child tested positive for covid.

Ms Mitchell said there were contingency plans if an outbreak impacted staffing levels at a school including using retired and studying teachers.

NSW Chief Medical officer Kerry Chant said while covid numbers were stabilising, “ a little bit of an uptick in transmission” was expected associated with schools going back.

What to do

If your child is unwell – even with mild symptoms – you must keep them home and get them tested.

If children have any symptoms, they should take a PCR (nose and throat swab) test or rapid antigen test (RAT).

If symptoms continue your child should stay home and take another RAT or PCR test in 24 hours.

If that test is also negative, your child may return to school if another diagnosis is confirmed such as hay fever.

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