Students in two more Australian states yesterday returned to school full time as numbers of COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the country fall.
New South Wales and Queensland states joined the less populous Western Australia and South Australia states and the Northern Territory in resuming face-to-face learning instead of studying from home online.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said that students and teachers had to observe one key message: Stay home if sick.
“We’re not out of the woods yet. We have to take each day as it comes, each week as it comes and we keep our fingers crossed that Queenslanders will continue to flatten that curve,” Palaszczuk told reporters.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said early indications were that the rate of children missing school yesterday was slightly higher than usual. That might reflect the message to keep children at home if they are unwell.
Australia’s remaining jurisdictions — Victoria and Tasmania states and the Australian Capital Territory — plan to send students back to school in stages through early next month.
New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, yesterday urged locals to continue working from home despite schools reopening to avoid putting pressure on the transport network.
Australia has reported more than 7,100 COVID-19 infections, including 102 deaths, well below figures reported by other developed countries.
With fewer than 20 new COVID-19 cases most days, states are pressing ahead with a three-stage plan to remove most social restrictions imposed by July.
“I am very pleased that the system hasn’t been overwhelmed,” Berejiklian said.
“People are listening, making informed decisions, and that is the way we would like it to continue,” she said.
With international borders likely to remain closed for months, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is also pressing locals to begin travel to support Australia’s tourism sector.
Although the federal government has devised a plan to reopen the national economy, the implementation is left to individual state and territory leaders, who come from opposing political parties and have different views on how much unrestricted movement should be allowed.
New South Wales has recorded 50 COVID-19 deaths and wants all state borders reopened, while Queensland, the third-most populous state, has recorded only six deaths and has no plans to open its borders.
South Australia and the Northern Territory also have no active cases and have closed borders.
The Australian Capital Territory has not had a case in three weeks and has left its borders open, as have the worst-affected states, New South Wales and Victoria.
The differences between states also threaten to delay reopening travel between New Zealand and Australia.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that both countries are developing protocols, but it would be unlikely to begin until Australia allows free domestic travel.
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