Yesterday, amid a continuing wave of massive COVID-19 infections and deaths, the leaders of the two hardest-hit states, Liberal-National New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet and his counterpart Victorian Labor Party Daniel Andrews have unveiled plans to reopen schools. face-to-face learning next week.
Highlighting the complete bipartisanship of the “let it go” policies that have driven Australia’s unprecedented pandemic surge, Andrews described the two states’ plans as “roughly identical”.
In the early stages of the COVID crisis, Andrews was identified with limited lockdowns and public health measures, implemented under pressure from the working class.
By contrast, Perrottet, a far-right liberal, is a longtime supporter of “herd immunity.” NSW’s premier was installed in a ‘corruption’ coup at the end of September last year, in time to speed up the lifting of lockdown measures and preside over British-style ‘freedom days’. He has gone from largely unknown less than six months ago to one of the country’s most despised political figures, alongside Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Under these conditions, Andrews plays the decisive role in legitimizing homicidal pandemic policies. He has collaborated for weeks with Perrottet on the school plan and insists, like Morrison and the NSW leader, that there is no alternative to mass infection, including children.
The magnitude of what is in preparation was indicated by a Guardian report, saying education administrators had been given advice that up to 20% of teachers could be on sick leave at any time. In New South Wales and Victoria, thousands of university students, retired educators and principals are being recruited to keep schools running as masses of teachers are infected with a potentially deadly virus.
As part of reopening plans, staff and students will take two rapid antigen tests each week, but schools will not close if students test positive and there will be no contact tracing by the city’s health services. ‘State. Instead, it will be up to each school to contact parents to advise them to monitor their children for symptoms.
The abolition of routine testing and the decision not to close schools make it clear that the surveillance testing program is not intended to prevent the spread of the disease, but to create a false sense of security for teachers and parents. Bi-weekly testing should only continue for the first four weeks of the quarter.
Mass gatherings, including assemblies, organized sports and field trips, will take place in both states. In Victoria, pupils in year three and above will be required to wear masks, while in New South Wales masks will only be compulsory for secondary school pupils.
As has been the case throughout the pandemic, unions are playing a key role in bringing teachers and students back into classrooms. NSW Teachers’ Federation (NSWTF) chairman Angelo Gavrielatos responded to yesterday’s announcement with a crude criticism of the decision not to mandate masks for primary school children, but otherwise endorsed the reopening.
Gavrielatos said the NSWTF will “closely monitor the effectiveness of the risk mitigation strategies” implemented by the government. In other words, the union will sit back and watch as thousands of teachers and students become infected with the highly transmissible and deadly virus.
What unions will “watch closely”, in fact, is growing opposition from teachers, parents and students to the reckless return to in-person learning.
Teachers responded angrily to the NSWTF statement on the union’s Facebook page. Michael Roberts wrote:[The] The lack of support from the Federation is simply shameful. Why do I have to use a QR code when I arrive at school when there is no contact tracing? You abandoned us, it’s as simple as that.
Meredith Peace, president of the Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union, has openly endorsed a plan that is likely to kill some of the workers she falsely claims to represent, saying: ‘The measures outlined by the Andrews government will help reduce risk and will also focus on the health and safety of staff and students, while balancing the need to get our students back to school.
The urgent drive to reopen schools is driven not by concerns about children’s education, but by the need to force their parents back to their unsafe workplaces, so that all lucrative business activities can resume. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last week: ‘If schools are not open we could see peak unemployment in our workforce rise from 10% to 15% which would have a devastating effect on our economy.”
Andrews said reopening schools was safe because “we are vaccinated now, we have what we need to prevent, in the vast majority of cases, really serious diseases”.
This is a plain and simple lie. Vaccines only became available for children aged 5 to 11 on January 10. As parents rush to get their children vaccinated, in line with very high support for COVID-19 vaccines among the wider Australian population, only around a third of primary school children have received their first shot, and none will be vaccinated. in double dose before at least the middle of the first trimester.
This is just one of many lies used to justify reopening.
Many political figures have claimed in recent days that the Omicron wave is near its peak. This totally unscientific claim is based on increasingly limited testing and completely discounts the impact of politics on transmission. The current surge has taken place almost entirely during summer vacation, meaning schools, one of the main sources of transmission during the Delta wave, have so far played little role.
The fact that a return to face-to-face learning will lead to an upsurge in infections regardless of “risk mitigation strategies” is openly acknowledged. Andrews said yesterday: “Once [schools] come back, given the amount of Omicron in the community, there will be cases.
The character of claims that the “summit” has been reached, as an exercise in state propaganda, was clearly demonstrated by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. He told Radio National this morning that there was no need to worry because ‘people don’t die’. It wasn’t until challenged by the host that Joyce retracted the claim.
But, undeterred, he continued to downplay the severity of the virus, saying it was a “tragic thing” to lose a family member “to catching the flu”.
Around Australia, 58 deaths from COVID-19 were reported today, bringing the total for the first 24 days of 2022 to 922. This represents almost a third of all deaths throughout the pandemic. More than 5,170 people are in hospital, 404 are in intensive care and 139 are on ventilators.
New South Wales (NSW) has reported the deaths of 24 people, of whom 2 had received three doses of the vaccine, 16 two doses, 3 one dose and 3 were unvaccinated. Two of the victims were in their 50s – one had received three doses of the vaccine and the other had received two. This clearly shows that neither the vaccine nor the relative youth provide complete protection against COVID-19.
The figures show that, far from having “peaked”, the pandemic has entered its deadliest phase to date in Australia. Having previously argued that the number of infections doesn’t matter, governments are touting fluctuations in daily case counts resulting in part from testing restrictions, as a decisive move. Before, as they reopened and allowed the virus to spread, they said all that mattered was hospitalizations and deaths. Now that there are record deaths, figures such as Joyce simply pretend they are not happening.
Workers, students and young people must reject the flood of lies. The dangers are not over, the schools are not safe and Omicron is not “gentle”. Governments are peddling this medical misinformation, despite condemnations from epidemiologists, to justify policies that will lead to a new wave of infections, and therefore disease and death.
First of all, the political conclusions must be drawn. All governments, Labor and Coalition, and trade unions have demonstrated in practice that their agenda puts corporate profits before health and lives, including those of children.
Urgent action must be taken against the reopening of schools, starting with the formation of grassroots action committees in each school, bringing together educators, students and parents. This must be part of a broader political struggle waged by the entire working class against “let it rip” policies and all who enforce them. Contact the Public Instruction Committee to join this fight:
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