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Australia: Vic to unveil back-to-school COVID plan

Omicron blunts economic activity. Could anyone have seen this coming? Well, yes

  Omicron blunts economic activity. Could anyone have seen this coming? Well, yes Australians have gone into their own 'shadow lockdowns' as politicians deny they could have foreseen the situation. But it was inevitable.But while policymakers didn’t necessarily foresee the sudden emergence of a more transmissible, less virulent strain of COVID-19, some experts say we could have been better prepared to face the economic havoc created. Instead Treasury was sidelined, and inadequate attention paid to supply chain issues.

Victoria is expected to detail its back-to-school plan, as extra teachers are recruited in a bid to cope with COVID-19 disruptions when classes resume.

Jeroen Weimar says recruiting retired teachers is a pragmatic step to keep Victoria's schools open. © Daniel Pockett/AAP PHOTOS Jeroen Weimar says recruiting retired teachers is a pragmatic step to keep Victoria's schools open.

The state government is yet to reveal what safeguards will be rolled out to protect students and staff from the rampant Omicron wave when term one begins on January 31.

It is expected those plans, mooted to include rapid tests for students, could be announced as early as Sunday.

COVID Commander Jeroen Weimar confirmed the government and health authorities were considering various options.

Vic quarantine hotels to house COVID cases

  Vic quarantine hotels to house COVID cases Two Melbourne quarantine hotels will be transformed into medical facilities to treat Victorians battling COVID-19, freeing up more hospital beds as cases surge.The state recorded a further 18 COVID-related deaths and 34,836 new cases on Friday, including 15,440 from rapid antigen tests and 19,396 from PCR tests.

"There'll be announcements in the next few days around the details of what that looks like," he told reporters on Saturday.

NSW and Victoria pitched their plan for re-opening schools to national cabinet on Thursday, after which Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the federal government had agreed to split the cost 50-50 with states opting to surveillance-test students and teachers.

Victorian public and low-fee independent schools have also been promised 51,000 air purifiers before the start of term one.

Fewer than half had been delivered by mid-January but Mr Weimar insists the program is "on track".

It comes as inactive or retired teachers, retired principals and other education staff are being recruited to plug COVID-related holes in the workforce.

Hundreds of Fed-Up Boston Students Walk Out to Protest Learning in COVID ‘Petri Dishes’

  Hundreds of Fed-Up Boston Students Walk Out to Protest Learning in COVID ‘Petri Dishes’ Hundreds of Boston public school students stormed out of their classes on Friday to protest in-person learning as COVID-19 continues to surge. After the walkout, students across the district delivered an online presentation with a list of demands to local and state officials, insisting that “students should not have to risk their lives for an education.” More than 600 high school students across 11 schools participated in Friday morning’s peaceful protest, according to They reportedly left their classes at 10:30 a.m. Some returned to school after the walkout, and others simply went home.

Video: Victoria records 37,169 new cases as more industries hit by staff shortages (ABC NEWS)

Recruits will be sent to local schools to replace teachers and other education support staff at short notice, if and when they contract COVID-19 and need to isolate.

"Every sector is under pressure from the Omicron variant and education will be no exception - but we're taking action early to make sure staff absences don't mean huge disruptions for students' learning," Education Minister James Merlino said.

Mr Weimar said it was a "simple, pragmatic measure" to ensure schools don't have to shut in the first weeks due to staff shortages.

The pool will only be available to government schools, which educate about two-thirds of primary and secondary students across the state.

Victoria recorded a further 20 virus-related deaths and 16,016 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday.

Rapid tests to 'play role' in NSW schools

  Rapid tests to 'play role' in NSW schools Rapid antigen tests will be part of the NSW's government's strategy to open schools for term one as planned amid the ongoing threat from COVID-19."We see a role of rapid antigen tests ... as we open up schools ... and that's why we procured here in NSW tens of millions of them," Mr Perrottet told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.

Mr Weimar said the state's seven-day case average has dropped to 20,954, while its test positivity rate is down to 20 per cent after hovering in the mid 30s.

"We're in a far better place than we were three weeks ago. We've got rapid antigen tests really starting to flow through. We've got cases under more control," he said.

Meanwhile, an "Invasion Day" march in Melbourne on January 26 has been cancelled, with organisers citing COVID-19 concerns.

Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance said it would be careless to hold the event at the height of a pandemic, as many in the Indigenous community are stuck down by the virus.

"This is the first time since 2015 WAR hadn't organised this rally and we want to be on the street fighting for our people but the time isn't now," the group said in a Facebook post.

Vic cases and hospitalisations stabilise .
Victoria's premier says COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalisations are stabilising, as the state expands its child vaccine program ahead of school returning.The state recorded 15 deaths and 13,755 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday, including 6130 from PCR tests and 7625 from rapid antigen tests.

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