The Australian Education Union wants schools to bring back regular Covid testing of all students and school staff regardless of whether they have symptoms.
The union has made the recommendation to a parliamentary inquiry into long Covid and repeated Covid infections that kicked off in September.
“The risk of repeated Covid infections, and thus the risk of developing long Covid as a result of asymptomatic spread among students in a school setting is high,” the AEU submission read. “To counter this risk the AEU further makes several recommendations to the Committee:
“That regular asymptomatic testing of all students and school staff is reinstated through the provision of rapid antigen tests to schools and to families of school students.”
It also recommended the reporting of positive tests is mandated and a database on Covid infections in school settings is kept and monitored.
In addition, the AEU called for school staff to be “supported financially for testing and isolation periods if unwell” as many teachers have already used up their sick leave.
“This should be at a level that removes any motivation to attend work while unwell and include casual staff and visiting staff,” the submission read.
The recommendations, which were among more than 500 submissions made to the inquiry committee, appear at odds with the Federal Government’s plan to transition to managing Covid in a “similar way” to other respiratory viruses next year.
A major change in the government’s Covid management plan is that Australians will require a referral from a medical or nurse practitioner to get a Medicare-funded PCR test from January 1.
“This plan strikes the right balance. We’re confident to protect vulnerable Australians, to protect the integrity of our health and hospital system while transitioning safely out of the emergency phase of the pandemic,” Health Minister Mark Butler said earlier this month.
Australian Medical Association president Professor Steve Robson said the government’s announcement failed to extend a critical lifeline to public hospitals, with the 50-50 Covid funding agreement between the states and the Commonwealth ending on December 31.
“Covid-19 is not over, no matter how much the Federal Government wishes it was,” Prof Robson said at the time. “It is a deadly and debilitating disease which is playing havoc with lives and the health system.
“Without this extra funding, the health system will fall even further down the rabbit hole.
“This is a bewildering decision by the government and goes against the advice of many experts including the AMA.”
In the week to December 13, 111,694 cases of Covid were reported across Australia, an average of 15,956 cases per day, according to the health department.