Schools will resume classes after the Easter holidays based on the latest medical advice relating to the coronavirus.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned schools could be closed for the entire year if Australians don’t co-operate with authorities to stem the spread of the virus.
A meeting between the prime minister and state and territory leaders on Sunday night ended with the leaders agreeing all schools should reopen on the other side of the Easter break, subject to further health advice.
But Morrison warned it would not be school holidays as usual, and the actions taken by parents and children over the break would have broad impacts.
“There will not be trips interstate … there will not be congregating up at the trampoline venue or whatever it happens to be,” he said.
“It won’t be a holiday as anyone has ever known it.
“The decisions that parents make, that we all make, over the course of the next few weeks in particular could very seriously determine the trajectory that Australia continues to go on in relation to the coronavirus.”
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said the risk to schoolchildren from the virus was very low.
“The consensus view of all of the chief health officers is schools should stay open,” he said.
Victorian and ACT schools are set to close on Tuesday, with the state and territory bringing forward the Easter holiday break.
Morrison said the states and territories could be forced to take severe measures if Australians continued to ignore warnings to maintain safe distances from other people, stay home from work if sick, and limit travel.
“If there is not a broad co-operation in the population … states will have to take more severe measures,” Morrison told ABC television on Sunday night.
“(The restrictions) just won’t be for a couple of weeks. I mean kids could lose their entire year of school. That’s what’s at stake here. ”
Morrison said in an earlier interview his family was heeding current medical advice.
“My kids will be going to school in the morning and … we will be following the medical advice,” Morrison said.
“For those health workers and others, a complete closure of schools across the country would take out 30 per cent of our health workforce.
“Now, you could imagine what the health impact would be.”
Pubs, Cinemas to Close
Morrison and state and territory leaders on Sunday agreed that from noon on Monday there would be new restrictions on a range of indoor venues.
Registered and licensed clubs, entertainment venues, cinemas, casinos, nightclubs, indoor sports venues, and places of worship have ordered to close in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
“We now need to take action because we cannot have the confidence as a group of leaders that the social distancing guidelines and rules that we have put in place won’t be followed to the level of compliance that we require to flatten the curve and slow the spread and save lives,” Morrison said.
By Paul Osborne