Teachers want to force your children to undergo random Covid checks in schools even if they aren’t showing any symptoms – despite medical experts warning the plan would be too costly and unreliable
- Called for RATs to be supplied to schools and parents in government submission
- Concerned repeated exposure at school will lead to increased long-term harm
- Expert welcomed idea but say RATs are expensive and provide false reassurance
Students and teachers may be forced to undergo random Covid-19 tests even if they’re not showing symptoms under a new union proposal for the 2023 school year.
The Australian Education Union has accused the Anthony Albanese government of showing a ‘lack of concern’ for the health and wellbeing of students as another Covid wave runs rampant across the nation.
The peak education body also expressed growing fears about the high risk of ‘long Covid’ in schools due repeat infections and the scrapping of isolation rules.
But infectious disease experts have rubbished the parliamentary proposal, outlining how mandatory testing would be unsustainably costly and that rapid antigen tests can be unreliable, particularly in asymptomatic cases with no symptoms.
Schools across the nation had a long list of strict Covid rules when term one began at the start of 2022, including the wearing of masks, RAT testing and isolating at home for at least seven days if infected.
Most restrictions are long gone and while cases are strongly recommended to isolate for a minimum five days, they no longer need to after stay-at-home restrictions were scrapped in October.
However in a recent submission to the federal government, the AEC advocated for ‘regular asymptomatic testing of all students and school staff’, and for RATs to be again supplied to schools and parents.
‘It is highly likely that repeated exposure to Covid at school will lead to increased long-term harm through cumulative effects of repeated infections and through an increase in the prevalence of long Covid among students,’ the union’s submission states.
‘Current Government approaches to limiting Covid infection, repeat infection and long Covid demonstrates a lack of concern for the health and wellbeing of students, teachers and broader school communities.’
A report by Queensland Health last month concluded that long Covid is ‘considerably over-estimated’ due to the dominance of Omicron strains which are less severe than previous mutations.
But Queensland infectious diseases expert Paul Griffin argues RATs in schools won’t address the issue, will be too costly and provide false reassurance.
He says schools should instead focus on better ventilation, ensuring vaccinations are up to date, social distancing where possible and facilitating testing of those with symptoms.
‘That is far more effective than a screening strategy using a test that doesn’t fulfil that role particularly well,’ Dr Griffin told The Courier Mail.
Epidemiologist Professor Adrian Esterman personally believed the AEU proposal was a great idea but added it won’t get the green light from the government.