Australia

NSW bans school formals, choirs and graduation ceremonies to stop coronavirus spread

Formals, dances, graduation ceremonies, choirs and all social events have been banned in NSW government schools in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.

A string of school closures, the latest being Sydney Girls High on Monday, has prompted the NSW Education department to announce new COVID-safe rules.

From Wednesday all public schools in the state will be required to adopt the changes to ensure communities remain safe inside and outside the school gate, said an education department statement issued on Monday.

Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 is prohibited from returning to school until a negative test result has been reported.

Under additional measures for term three:

  • Students must remain within their relevant class or year group to limit mixing
  • Schools must not travel outside their local community or zone, including between rural and regional areas
  • Interschool sport and zone carnivals are restricted to 100 people per venue and must be held in the local area
  • Spectators, including parents and carers, are not permitted within school grounds or at sporting events held during school hours
  • All group singing and other chanting activities, as well as the use of wind instruments in group settings, are not permitted
  • Dance activities and drama group work can continue under a COVID-19 Safety Plan
  • School formals, dances, graduations or other social events are not permitted
  • Schools may hold a Year 12 assembly at school without parents to recognise the completion of school or consider delaying events until later in the year.
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However students and staff required to support HSC students are permitted to undertake activities to meet their HSC requirements with COVID-19 safety measures in place.

Organisations that use school buildings or grounds must utilise a COVID-19 safety plan and encourage strict compliance.

The new restrictions are in addition to existing health advice for schools, including maintaining good hand hygiene, physical distancing for adults and the banning of non-essential school visitors.

Sydney Girls High School is closed for deep cleaning on Monday as it works with NSW Health to establish the infected girl’s close contacts.

All staff and students are asked to self-isolate while that process is underway. Her case will be counted in Monday’s official figures.

A man in his 80s became NSW’s latest virus fatality, taking the state’s toll to 54 on Sunday with the national figure increasing to 396.

But the state recorded just five new cases, the lowest number since July 12.

All were locally acquired infections. Three of the five are connected to the Tangara School for Girls cluster, which has so far been linked to 25 cases in total, in Cherrybrook in Sydney’s northwest.

The three are linked to previous Tangara cases who visited four separate venues between August 2 and August 8.

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Investigations are ongoing into the two other cases, including a man in his 40s, from western Sydney, and a close contact of the man. The source infection is currently unknown.

“As COVID-19 continues to circulate in the community, maintaining high rates of testing is vital at this time,” NSW Health said in a statement.

Authorities are urging people with even the mildest symptoms to come forward for testing.

To date, there are 378 cases where the source infection has not been identified. Some 24,093 tests for COVID-19 were conducted in the 24 hours to 8pm Saturday.

In a case to be included in Monday’s figures, Parramatta Local Court was cleaned as a precaution on Sunday after a security guard tested positive to COVID-19.

The Department of Communities and Justice said the guard worked at the courthouse last Tuesday and Wednesday morning.

It said all close contacts had been identified and people at the courthouse between 8.30am and 12.30pm last Tuesday and Wednesday should watch for symptoms.

NSW Police on Sunday fined a party bus operator $5000 for breaching coronavirus health orders.

The 25-year-old drove the bus carrying 43 passengers from Penrith to the Sydney CBD when he was pulled over by police shortly after 11.15pm on Saturday.

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He was charged over the number of passengers on board, including several who appeared to be underage and intoxicated.

Police also arrested a 17-year-old girl for cocaine possession.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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