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Perrottet calls return to school a ‘key priority’ as National cabinet opts for separate reopening plans

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NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet (middle). Photo: Facebook.

By DANIEL LO SURDO

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has called the safe return to face-to-face learning a “key priority” as the state government finalises its plans for the reopening of schools on February 1.

Mr Perrottet said that there would be challenges with the return to classrooms, but backed the government’s plans for a safe reopening, which he hopes will “instil confidence in parents and teachers” who have been frustrated by a lack of information ahead of the start of the school year.

It comes following another meeting of the National cabinet on Thursday, where states opted to act “individually” in their return to school plans but agreed that keeping schools open should be a priority, with closures likely to result in additional absences to supply chains and workplaces, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned would have a “devastating effect on our economy”.

Speaking after Thursday’s meeting, Mr Morrison hinted that some states and territories may introduce surveillance testing systems as part of their plans, with those electing to use this method being helped by the Federal Government through a “50-50” financial support agreement. Surveillance testing involves collecting test results, regardless of the user’s exposure to the virus, to monitor local infection rates and identify asymptomatic cases and potential clusters.

While speaking to City Hub earlier this month, mother at Lilyfield’s Orange Grove Public School and Inner West councillor Kobi Shetty said it was “positive that the government recognises the importance of getting children back to school”, but affirmed that more information was needed ahead of the reopening, adding that “parents are going to be understandably nervous about sending their kids to school”.

Children aged 5-11 became eligible for their first COVID-19 vaccination on January 10, with 24.1 per cent of NSW children now having received their first jab. Fears have grown in the past fortnight of children beginning the school year unvaccinated, with issues involving appointment bookings and cancellations muddying plans for a safe return.

NSW recorded 30 deaths and 20,148 new cases of COVID-19 in the last reporting period, with 2,762 in hospital and 204 in intensive care.

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