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‘I can understand why parents are concerned’: Governments at odds over school coronavirus precautions

As the coronavirus death toll rises to more than 100, many schools are taking extra precautions in an effort to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

Overnight, Australia upgraded its travel warnings for China, recommending travellers ‘reconsider the need’ to travel to China, and ‘do not travel’ to Hubei province.

With five confirmed cases of the disease in Australia, a slew of Melbourne private schools are calling for students who have been to coronavirus affected regions of China in the last two weeks to stay home.

The New South Wales government is also asking children to stay at home if they’ve travelled to China.

But the Victorian government and the federal government say if children aren’t showing virus-like symptoms, and haven’t been in direct contact with someone who has been confirmed to have the deadly coronavirus, they should go to school.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan says the government is acting on the best medical advice available.

“Schools will make individual choices based on a myriad of circumstances, but we are providing advice to all state and territory governments on what is the best available scientific information they have for dealing with this,” he told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell.

“I can understand why parents are concerned, but at the same time, if you’re concerned that your child has an illness, or has a disease, you go and get the best medical advice, you go to talk to specialists about how you should deal with that.

“That is what the Australian government is doing around this pandemic.

“If that medical advice changes then we will change our policies accordingly.”

Victorian Education Minister, James Merlino, has taken aim at the NSW government for its decision to go against federal advice and tell parents to keep their children at home if they’ve recently returned from China.

But Neil Mitchell commended the schools who have adopted tougher measures.

“We don’t know enough about the incubation, and the symptoms and when you’re infectious,” the 3AW Mornings host said.

“If the advice changes and says keep the kids home it could be too late.

“I can’t see the reason why they wouldn’t just be overly cautious.”

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Coronavirus fears: Melbourne schools call for students who have recently visited China to stay at home

Image (background): Nicolas Asfouri / Getty