Parents Told To Keep School Kids At Home If They've Recently Been To China
People in NSW have been asked to hold their children back from returning to school this week if they've recently travelled to China.
As Australian authorities manage the coronavirus risk, and schools nationwide prepare to reconvene for the year, different states have issued different directives. Here's what you need to know, depending on where you live around Australia.
New South Wales
Parents and caregivers in NSW have been asked to hold their children back from school if they have recently travelled to China amid the coronavirus outbreak.
State health minister Brad Hazzard said the measure -- which is voluntary -- was one of the toughest calls he has ever made in government.
Parents have been asked to keep their kids at home when school returns on Wednesday if their children have been in China within the past 14 days.
"It is affecting those in a country who are on high alert in any case, and most of them (parents) would be considering it a reasonable extension of the steps to protect the community," Hazzard told reporters on Tuesday.
A family of four and six others who were being tested for coronavirus in NSW were on Tuesday morning cleared but six new cases are now under investigation.
Hazzard on Tuesday morning said 10 people under investigation on Monday had been cleared but six new potential cases were now being assessed.
"This will be, for some to come, an evolving situation," he said.
There have been four confirmed cases of the potentially deadly coronavirus in NSW.
A 21-year-old UNSW student became the fourth case in NSW and fifth in Australia after she tested positive on Monday. The student and three men who previously tested positive are being treated at Sydney's Westmead Hospital.
All four people had either travelled to Wuhan or had contact with someone diagnosed with coronavirus in China.
A Melbourne man in his 50s was also diagnosed and is being treated at the Monash Medical Centre.
Some NSW private schools had earlier advised students who have travelled to China or been in contact with anyone who has been in China in the past fortnight to stay home.
Victorian public schools are not excluding students who travelled to China during the summer break amid the threat of the deadly coronavirus.
On the advice of health officials, government schools will only expect a student to stay away if they are a confirmed case or have been exposed to someone who is confirmed to have the virus.
Students who have been exposed to a confirmed case should not attend school or childcare until 14 days after their last contact.
The advice comes as authorities believe there is insufficient evidence to suggest people who do not have symptoms of coronavirus are infectious.
"The chief health officers have been unanimous in saying this is a proportionate and evidence-based policy position," Victoria's chief health officer Dr Brett Sutton told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Schools with international students were told of the advice on Friday, with other public schools and Catholic schools informed on Monday.
There are 6000 international students in Victoria's public school system and about 2500 of them are from China.
Some private schools around the country have taken action to split students who have visited China recently from the wider student body.
Firbank Grammar School in Melbourne is among those who have told parents to keep children at home for at least two weeks if they have visited an affected area in China or had contact with anyone who has travelled from China in the past two weeks.
Dr Sutton said schools have the right to make such decisions.
"If others feel that they want to take a more highly precautionary approach, then I guess they've got freedom to so do," he said.
Schools have also been reminded that good personal hygiene can help protect against respiratory illnesses such as novel coronavirus, including washing hands regularly and covering the mouth and nose when coughing.
Education department deputy secretary David Howes said schools have welcomed the advice.
"Schools overall have been reassured. They have been grateful for the clarity of the advice and have been reassured that the appropriate risk treatment is in place," he told reporters.
Victorian students return to school this week.
Some Adelaide private schools have urged parents to keep students at home if they've recently travelled from China, in response to the concerns over the coronavirus.
With schools returning this week, some are asking that those students who might be at risk to stay home for between 10 days and two weeks following their return from China.
"If you have visited the Wuhan district of China during the holidays, we ask that you refrain from sending your children to school until they have been back in Australia for at least 10 days," Blackfriars Priory told parents on Tuesday.
"During this time, you should be on the alert for symptoms related to a fever or respiratory symptoms. These include a cough, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, a sore throat or a runny nose."
Blackfriars also confirmed that none of its Chinese students returning to the school this year were from the Hubei Province, where the current outbreak is centred.
Similar requests to keep children at home were made by other schools, while the SA Department of Education said only those students in close contact with a confirmed case - or those who currently had symptoms consistent with the virus - were advised to stay home.
"All students and staff who have travelled to mainland China, and especially Hubei Province, should monitor themselves for the 14 days from their departure from mainland China for symptoms of coronavirus," the department said.
SA Health said on Tuesday that six people tested for the coronavirus in the state were still awaiting results while a seventh person tested had since been cleared.