National Cabinet to discuss safe return to school, booster vaccines and free rapid antigen tests

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Australia’s leaders will focus on a safe return to school for students and teachers when National Cabinet meets on Thursday.

The premiers of NSW and Victoria are expected to present a united plan to reopen on the first day of term this month despite reporting tens of thousands of COVID-19 cases each day.

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State and territory leaders will consider calling upon retirees and final year university graduates to substitute for isolating teachers, and requiring each student to do twice-weekly rapid tests.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said it’s not a shoe-in that all state and territory governments will agree to a uniform set of rules.

Scott Morrison will convene a national cabinet meeting as COVID-19 cases surge across Australia. Credit: AAP

Queensland has already announced schools are starting a fortnight later than originally scheduled to allow for more vaccination of staff and students.

“The states and territories often have different views about these things, and at the end of the day, they’re responsible for their schooling system and they’re responsible for public health,” Mt Morrison told reporters on Wednesday.

“We are seeking to harmonise that as much as possible (and) to provide consistent support measures.”

Mr Morrison says the case for frequent rapid tests for school teachers is strong, but the jury is still out on the need to test students.

“The predominant way I’m advised the virus comes into a community like that is through the teachers, not the students,” he said.

“But with Omicron, anything is possible.”

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