Rapid antigen testing in schools

Rapid antigen testing will be required as students return from summer holidays.

As part of a plan announced on January 23 to keep education settings open, the Victorian Government will deliver more than 14 million rapid antigen tests to schools and early childhood education and care services.

Rapid antigen testing will be in place for at least the first four weeks of Term 1.

Testing twice-weekly at home will be recommended for all primary and secondary school students and staff, and early childhood education and care staff.

Students and staff at specialist schools will be recommended to test five days each week due to the higher risk of severe illness for medically vulnerable children.

School and early childhood staff will be added to the list of workers in key sectors who must receive a third dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by Friday 25 February if they are already eligible, or within three months and two weeks of receiving a second dose to continue working in education settings.

About 51,000 air purification devices will be delivered to government and low-fee non-government schools for the first day of Term 1 to slow the spread of the virus in high-risk areas.

More than 29 per cent of children aged five to 11 have now had one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

The government is working to ensure all children in this cohort have access to two doses by the end of Term 1 – with 30 pop-up vaccination clinics opening on school sites, alongside grants to pharmacies and GP’s to deliver vaccines at schools.

Schools and kindergartens will be required to inform staff, parents and carers when there is a positive case and will provide advice on any steps families are required to take.

Mask wearing will continue, with students in Grade 3 and above required to wear masks indoors.

Remote learning will only be a short-term, localised last resort and when students are required to isolate as a close contact or positive case, the Department of Education and Training will provide online resources for students.

Premier Daniel Andrews said face-to-face learning was the best option for kids’ learning and wellbeing.

“…that’s why we’ve done the work to get students safely back in the classroom from the start of Term 1, and make sure they stay there,” he said.

Education Minister James Merlino said he couldn’t wait to welcome all students back for Term 1.

“With vital CovidSafe steps in place like surveillance testing, improved ventilation and high rates of vaccination, we’ve done everything we can to make schools as safe as possible,” Mr Merlino said.