RACP calls for COVID-19 national return-to-school guidelines

25 August 2021

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) is calling on the National Cabinet to establish a plan to prioritise face-to-face learning for school-aged children and adolescents in the context of the Delta variant – which includes priority vaccines for all school staff.

The national guidelines would provide states and territories with a best-practice approach and ensure that school closures are minimised during the pandemic.

RACP President Professor John Wilson says “Whilst they are necessary right now in some high-risk locations in Victoria and NSW, the impacts of school closures do come at a great cost to children’s development and their mental and physical wellbeing.

“We’re seeing rising mental health issues in children which is deeply concerning. The impact of school closures is also far greater for children from lower socio-economic backgrounds, children living with disabilities, and in families where children are exposed to domestic violence.

“We need a nationally consistent approach to keep children and teachers safe, whilst also minimising school closures.

“We believe this requires national guidelines to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools including masks for certain age groups, ventilation of classrooms including HEPA filters, staggered school starts, and physical distancing where possible. Other public health measures such as handwashing and test/trace/isolate also remain important.

“We know that the Delta variant is impacting children – which is why the RACP supports the current school closures as a last-resort measure to protect children and the community.

“The longer that children are out of school, the more that children experience the mental, social, physical and developmental impacts of school closures.

“We’re calling on the National Cabinet to make getting children back to school, and keeping them there, a priority, and provide some guidelines on the path forward.”

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