NSW school return 'seamless' as possible
Schooling will commence as seamlessly as possible under an education plan to be unveiled at national cabinet, NSW's premier says.
While Queensland has postponed school returning, NSW and Victoria have both committed to avoiding any delay.
Retired teachers and final-year university students have been asked to "provide a buffer" to an anticipated shortfall of regular staff furloughed due to COVID-19 isolation rules, Dominic Perrottet said on Thursday.
"It will look a bit different to how schooling has been in normal times, but ultimately I think with the plan we put in and will be taking to national cabinet today, I have confidence we'll be able to have schooling commence as seamlessly as possible," he told ABC on Thursday.
The premier said no final decision had been made on the extent of surveillance testing in schools, purported to be twice-weekly for all 1.3 million students.
But "at least in the short-term" surveillance testing would provide some role, with the state increasing its order of rapid antigen tests to 150 million this week.
"We see those tests playing a role in all our frontline work and giving comfort to people as we move through this difficult period of time," he said.
"That's for schools, health workers, providing support, social housing as well."
Parents have been urged to get their booster shot before children return to school, with the government on Wednesday making an extra 1.8 million more NSW residents eligible for boosters.
The interval between the second and third shot was shortened from four months to three, a change that was not due to happen until the end of January in line with federal government rules for GPs and pharmacies.
It came after state clinics delivered about 180,000 shots last week, well below the 250,000 shots the clinics can provide.
"It's awful for us to see our bookings in our clinics go begging," NSW Health Deputy Secretary Susan Pearce said.
The race is also on to get as many five to 11 year-olds vaccinated as possible, with four in five in NSW still to receive their first dose as of Tuesday.
Opposition Leader Chris Minns has repeated his call for the government to consider turning schools into mass vaccination hubs, saying it would be "a great and efficient way of distributing these vaccines".
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant says "the numbers will go up and down" as children return to school and urged parents to get booster shots.
Dr Chant says people who have already had COVID-19 can get a booster four to six weeks after they were infected.
Meanwhile, new figures show the average COVID-19 patient taken to hospital is spending almost five days before discharge, up from 3.6 days per admission two weeks ago.
The number of health workers in isolation has dropped slightly on last week's figure, down 360 to 5296.
Unvaccinated people remain disproportionately more likely to end up seriously ill, making up 27 per cent of hospital patients and 44 per cent of ICU admissions on January 16, when the latest snapshot was taken.