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Outbreaks 'inevitable' but Miles expects teachers, students to tough it out

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Queensland children are returning to class with authorities saying Covid-19 outbreaks in schools are inevitable, but it’s unlikely any will be shut down.

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Less than half of children under 11 in Queensland have had one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and rapid antigen tests are still being sent to schools.

The start of the academic year was delayed by two weeks due to the state’s virus outbreak, which has killed another nine people and infected another 5746, reported on Sunday.

Face masks are mandatory in high schools and strongly recommended for students in years three-to-six, while schools must ensure adequate classroom ventilation.

The government promised to provide every school with free rapid antigen tests by the time classes returned, but it’s unclear whether they have been delivered in time.

Less than 38 per cent of five to 11-year-olds have had one dose of a vaccine, but Deputy Premier Steven Miles says schools are ready to return.

“We have a very detailed return to school plan that has been implemented across schools,” he told reporters on Sunday.

“The last element of that plan was making sure we had sufficient rapid antigen tests so that parents could get their children tested if they had symptoms.”

“We now have those tests, they’re on their way out to schools and they’ll have them available during the week.”

Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said while the delay had relieved pressure on the healthcare system, it was “inevitable” there would be outbreaks in schools in coming days.

He said a small proportion of children would get sick enough from the virus, or suffer complications such as bronchitis, to need hospital treatment.

“There will be some but not large numbers,” Gerrard said.

“The bigger risk in terms of hospitalisations is more the child bringing the virus home to the parents and grandparents, particularly if grandparents aren’t boosted.

“So yes, we do expect to see more cases as the schools open, the impact on hospitals is unclear. I’m not expecting a substantial impact on hospitals but we’re prepared for it.”

The chief health officer said despite the likelihood of outbreaks, it would be “very, very unlikely” that any school would be shut down, as that is a “last resort”.

Gerrard said school shutdowns had been used during the previous two years of the pandemic to contain the virus, but the goal now is to manage the virus at a classroom level.

“Our goal is to minimise hospitalisations, to minimise illness,” he said.

“So it’s not impossible, but it’s unlikely.”

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