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Former AMA President's Impassioned Plea To Close All Schools Due To COVID-19 Pandemic

Dr. Kerryn Phelps said "the window of opportunity for school closures to be effective in preventing spread is rapidly closing", but on Saturday Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews affirmed the federal government's stance.

Phelps, an independent Councillor for the City of Sydney and former president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), is pleading with the Australian government to "protect teachers and students" and shut down schools.

In a Facebook video published Friday night, Phelps cited advice from epidemiologists that school closures must be done early to be effective.

"Schools have been told to stay open, but to impose social distancing of 1.5 metres," Phelps said.

Completely impractical. Have they met a group of six-year-olds? Or a group of teenagers for that matter.

In 1999, Phelps was elected president of the New South Wales branch of the AMA. The following year she was elected federal president of the AMA, where she served the maximum term of three years.

Phelps was also the President of the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association from 2009 until 2012.

Phelps added that reports of Singapore "managing to flatten the curve without closing its schools" were missing vital information.

In Singapore children had their temperatures checked on arrival at the school gate and sent home if they had a fever or symptoms. They had widespread testing with strict isolation of confirmed cases.

"Once past the school gates, children were expected to wash their hands with soap and water.

Meanwhile here in Australia, schools are reporting that they have run out of soap. Not to mention paper towels."

The doctor shared her worry for teachers "who are older or who have chronic medical conditions like asthma or diabetes", and begged for "innovative approaches" to at-home schooling to be commenced immediately.

"Like redeploying teachers to set up online learning in virtual classrooms. We need to decide who our essential workers are and make arrangements for the care of their children," Phelps said.

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"We have to be getting our heads around the school situation now."

But VIC Premier Daniel Andrews said it remained the advice of the federal government's chief medical officer Brendan Murphy and "every other health officer across the country" that schools remain open.

"That is the health advice. Again, I am in no way criticising parents for being concerned. Being anxious, that is a perfectly natural thing," Andrews said.

My kids are at school, the chief health officer’s kids are at school, that is the medical advice, that is the advice of experts, that could change.

The national total of positive coronavirus cases is 874 at last count, Federal Minister Greg Hunt said on Saturday. He added 115,000 tests have been carried out.

Contact the author samelia@networkten.com.au

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