SYDNEY - Schools in Australia’s most populous state have reopened Monday after weeks of a COVID-19 lockdown. Students in New South Wales, along with those in Queensland, have headed back to class in one of the most significant easing of coronavirus restrictions.
More than one million students are back in class Monday, as state and private schools in New South Wales resume full-time learning after two months of lockdown. Authorities in the neighboring Australian state of Queensland have also reopened schools. Many children in Tasmania are also returning to class. Victoria will begin a phased return to on-site schooling Tuesday.
Social distancing measures are in place, and parents and carers are not allowed onto school premises.
New South Wales Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell says the return to school has started well.
“It is an exciting day for lots of parents and teachers and students right across New South Wales as we see our children return to the classroom," she said. "Again, we are so grateful to our school communities for all the preparation work that they have done to have our students back, the additional cleaning and the hygiene supplies, and by all accounts this morning things are going very well. I think there is a lot of excitement in classrooms. It is exciting to have them back in the classroom and we are looking forward to being back into some kind of normal when it comes to education in New South Wales.”
Schools have been one of the most controversial parts of Australia’s response to the pandemic. The federal government has always insisted all pupils should be in schools, while state leaders have insisted it was safer for them to be at home.
Reopening schools is a significant step in Australia’s winding back of COVID-19 controls. Further relaxations will come into effect at the start of June, with many cafes, bars and restaurants allowed to reopen with strict limits on the number of patrons. However, many state borders remain closed, and Australia continues to ban all foreign nationals from entering the country.
Australia has had more than 7,100 confirmed coronavirus cases. 102 people have died with the virus.