27 August 2021

UPDATED: Roadmap released for return to school, walk-in centres to open across the region

| Kim Treasure
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NSW Health Minister Sarah Mitchell

NSW Health Minister Sarah Mitchell delivers her message to a briefing of regional journalists this afternoon (Friday). Image: Screenshot.

UPDATED 1:30 pm: NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell hopes regional children will return to school “sooner rather than later”, as the government maps out its plans for a resumption of face-to-face teaching.

Under the roadmap delivered today, a staggered approach will see kindergarten and year one students leading the shift back to school at the end of October, with years two, six and 11 to follow on 1 November, and other grades returning to the classroom from 8 November.

But Ms Mitchell said she was hopeful regional students would be able to return more quickly.

“They have at least another two weeks [of homeschooling] but I’m hoping they will come out earlier [than October] as lockdowns lift,” she said.

“If we do have the ability to lift some of the restrictions in regional areas, we will be able to return to school in line with them.”

Ms Mitchell said any return to school would be on level three restrictions, which would make masks mandatory for staff and high school students, and recommended for primary students. There would be no external visitors, no assemblies, no choir and no band.

In his daily briefing, Deputy Premier John Barilaro said walk-in vaccination clinics would open next month in Queanbeyan, Goulburn, Batemans Bay and Cooma to boost rates in those regions.

Anyone aged 18 or over can attend the clinics without a booking and receive an AstraZeneca vaccine.

All clinics will open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm:

  • Queanbeyan, Morriset House, Morriset St. From 2 to 4 September.
  • Goulburn, Old RTA building, Bourke St. From 5 to 7 September.
  • Batemans Bay, Batemans Bay Soldiers Club, 6 Beach Rd. From 9 to 11 September.
  • Cooma, Multi-Function Centre, 10 Boundary Street. From12 to 14 September.

Bega Valley Shire Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick has confirmed the Bega Sewage Treatment Plant will be included in the NSW COVID-19 Surveillance Program as of next week.

NSW Health has approved a request from council to expand the sampling area following detection of COVID-19 virus fragments at the Merimbula Sewage Treatment Plant on Wednesday (25 August).

Staff at the Bega plant will begin providing samples to the NSW Health Water Unit on Monday, 30 August, adding to other sampling sites in Merimbula, Eden and Bermagui.

READ ALSO Regional lockdown extended, COVID fragments detected in Queanbeyan, Cooma

11:30 am: Higher School Certificate exams in NSW have been pushed back until 9 November, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian signalling a return to face-to-face learning from 25 October.

The Premier said the marking period and adjusting of HSC scores would go to mid-January, with kindergarten and year one students leading the shift back to school at the end of October.

Under the roadmap delivered today, years two, six and 11 and would follow on November 1, with other grades returning to the classroom from 8 November.

Any part of the state that exits lockdown before 25 October would also return to the classroom as part of that change.

“We’re also asking for everyone who works on a school campus … to be vaccinated by 8 November,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“A large proportion of teachers are already vaccinated but we are calling out for anybody, to any teacher, who is not vaccinated to get vaccinated.”

NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said teachers now had 10 weeks to get vaccinated before it became mandatory, and claimed there was “ample supply” in regional areas.

There will be a special vaccination day for teachers on September 6.

Ms Mitchell said “strict COVID settings” would apply and for the rest of term three, learning from home would continue.

“We don’t make decisions to have students learning from home lightly,” she said. “I think the key element now is that parents know the plan going forward.

“If we do have high case numbers in certain LGAs … of course that’s what we will do, but it means there won’t be a blanket approach anymore.”

READ ALSO What I’ve learned from lockdown 2.0

The state recorded two deaths and 882 cases in the 24 hours to 8:00 pm on Thursday.

More than two dozen of those are yet to be allocated to a health district, NSW Health said.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said areas like Merimbula, where the source of COVID-19 fragments in sewage has still not been discovered, remain a concern.

He will update regional media early this afternoon.

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