Prime Minister announces schools will stay open

The Prime Minister and the Chief Medical Officer have announced that Australian schools will remain open based on health advice.

LIVE: PM Scott Morrison on COVID-19

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is addressing the media on the latest developments of coronavirus in Australia.

Posted by ABC News on Tuesday, 17 March 2020

The announcement was made at a media conference in Canberra today. The following is an ABC Online transcript of comments made in relation to schools.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Brendan Murphy

"This is quite different to influenza and other respiratory diseases which have quite severe disease sometimes in children. We know that even in influenza, school closures are a controversial issue. We believe very strongly that it's in the best interest of our children and the nation at this time to keep schools open.

"There may be occasions when there's a big outbreak in a community that some local school closures might be necessary. But at this time, across the community, our view is that schools should stay open.

"Now, there obviously are measures that we can take to reduce potential transmission in schools. It's interesting in China that again, most of the children infected were reported as having picked up the virus from adults in their household. But we don't know whether children may be a vector of asymptomatic or transmission with low levels of symptoms.

"So we need to make sure that our schools are made as safe as possible. We need to make sure that no sick child goes to school. We need to make sure that no sick teacher goes to school.

"We need to try and avoid large assemblies and other gatherings at schools. We know also that it's not really possible for children in a classroom to keep 1.5 metres apart from each other, and we know that we've got to be practical about that. But schools should practise very good hand hygiene, too. Very hard to do in a school, but we can trust our teachers to do it. Children should be washing their hands regularly, particularly when they're eating and particularly when they're touching common areas."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison

"The health advice is that schools should remain open. That is the health advice. Interestingly, this is also what Singapore has done. Singapore has been one of the more successful countries. In Singapore, the schools are open. In Singapore they have been quite effective in managing and limiting the transmission of this virus in that country.

"The health advice here, supported by all the premiers, all the chief ministers and my Government is that schools should remain open.

"There are a number of reasons for this. The first one is that the virus operates very differently amongst younger people. It has a different manifestation amongst younger people and that presents a very different health challenge to the broader population.

In terms of the health and welfare of our children, many of us here are parents and obviously we are concerned about the health of our kids and the health advice that I'm happy to follow for my kids, for Jenny and my kids, is the same health advice I am asking all other parents around the country to follow.

"We all love our kids and there is nothing we wouldn't do for them. I am telling you that, as a father, I'm happy for my kids to go to school.

"There is only one reason your kids shouldn't be going to school and that is if they are unwell. As parents, you are in the best position to know if your children are unwell. Don't leave it to the teacher to work that out when they arrive."

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