NSW planning ‘mammoth’ rollout of rapid antigen tests for students
A secret government warehouse is ground zero for NSW’s “military-style operation” to provide rapid antigen tests to students in time for classes.
Pictures from inside the Chullora, NSW warehouse show boxes of RATs, masks and air purifiers piled high and workers packing the cargo on trucks.
The supplies are being trucked to schools via eight regional hubs, and nearly 5 million RATs have already been delivered.
The exact location of the warehouse remains a secret due to the huge demand for RATs,
More than 3000 schools and 5000 childcare centres had already received their tests, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said.
“This has been a phenomenal effort, it has been as we have said a military operation and we set out to achieve this a few weeks ago,” Mr Perrottet said.
“It has been a mammoth effort.”
Getting students back in classrooms after two years of studies interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic is a major priority for the Perrottet government.
With most NSW students due back in classrooms on Monday, the government is in for one of the first major tests of its strategy to “live alongside” the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
NSW Health has flagged Covid-19 cases, which are currently deemed to be stable, will likely rise as a result of classes returning.
But the government hopes the plan to test each student twice per week will prevent a catastrophe.
Opposition Leader Chris Minns said he supported the RAT program.
But he claimed the government had announced its plan to bring children back to classrooms too late for teachers and parents to be able to plan ahead.
“It's very late in the day for the NSW Government to be releasing that package,” Mr Minns said.
“There's a lot on the line, we want the over a million children that are going to return to schools in NSW to get back in the classroom after the last couple of disruptive years.”
The rapid testing program will be continuously reviewed to make sure it’s having the intended effect, the Premier said.
“We will naturally assess how it's going, and reflect on that, and if there are ways we can improve we will,” Mr Perrottet said.
However parents have been confused by mixed messages from ministers.
Mr Perrottet has said several times there is no need to do tests on day one of classes, while Education Minister Sarah Mitchell has said the opposite.
“We’re asking all of our students and staff to test before they come back to school for that first day,” Ms Mitchell said earlier in the week.
However the Premier on Friday downplayed the discrepancy.
“Those tests are required twice a week. We don't stipulate the date, it’s about being flexible,” he said.
A third of children aged five to 11 have received one shot of a coronavirus vaccine, while four out of five in the age group 12-15 have received two doses.
Originally published as NSW planning ‘mammoth’ rollout of rapid antigen tests for students
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