Queensland chief health officer says it’s inevitable kids will get Covid when they return to school


Queensland’s straight-talking chief doctor says it’s ‘inevitable’ some kids will catch Covid at school – but warns parents not to get too anxious about it

  • Queensland delays starts of 2022 school year by two weeks due to spike in Covid
  • State’s top doctor has warned outbreaks in the classroom will be ‘inevitable’
  • Described as a ‘simple respiratory virus like any virus’ in most cases of children
  • Dr John Gerrard warned of the biggest risk of students passing virus onto family


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Children will be infected with Covid-19 even after a delayed return to the classroom, Queensland‘s top doctor has warned.

Queensland’s chief health officer John Gerrard has urged parents to not to get ‘too anxious’ about their kids heading back to school next month but warned outbreaks in the classroom are inevitable.

Dr Gerrard stressed that while most young patients will suffer only mild symptoms and the chances of becoming ‘terribly ill’ were rare, the biggest concern is  children passing the virus on family members at home and vulnerable relatives such as elderly grandparents.

The Sunshine State recorded 9581 new cases on Monday, a day after Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk delayed the start of term one by a fortnight until the second week of February due to the nationwide surge in Omicron infections.

Brothers Louise and Harry Taylor-Bishop were among the first primary school-aged students in Brisbane to roll up their sleeves for the Covid jab on Monday

Brothers Louise and Harry Taylor-Bishop were among the first primary school-aged students in Brisbane to roll up their sleeves for the Covid jab on Monday

Brothers Louise and Harry Taylor-Bishop were among the first primary school-aged students in Brisbane to roll up their sleeves for the Covid jab on Monday

‘I worry that we’re making parents overly anxious that it’s going to make them terribly ill,’ Dr Gerrard told reporters on Monday.

‘There definitely are rare complications in children, I’m not going to downplay it, but for the vast majority it is a simple respiratory virus like any virus they would have had in the past.’

‘It’s very likely that there will be a surge in infections when schools return, we know that … it’s inevitable that will happen.’

‘In reality the biggest risk is not to the children themselves, but to the people around them, their parents and grandparents.’

Monday coincided with a milestone in Australia’s vaccine rollout with ages 5-11 now able to roll up their sleeves for a jab. 

Queensland students had their return to school delayed by a fortnight until February 7 after the state recorded 18,000 new Covid cases on Sunday.

Queensland's chief health officer John Gerrard (pictured on Monday) has warned Covid outbreaks in the classroom will be inevitable when students return to school from February 7

Queensland's chief health officer John Gerrard (pictured on Monday) has warned Covid outbreaks in the classroom will be inevitable when students return to school from February 7

Queensland’s chief health officer John Gerrard (pictured on Monday) has warned Covid outbreaks in the classroom will be inevitable when students return to school from February 7

Years 11 and 12 will spend the first week from January 31 learning from home.

Dr Gerrard said the delayed start to the 2022 school year will allow more jabs in the arms of 5-11-year-olds and for adults to get their boosters.

‘These two extra weeks give an opportunity to others who might be at risk to get their third dose. If I’m pushing anything it’s that in particular,’ he said.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Victorian counterpart Daniel Andrews have  ruled out a delayed return to the classroom, despite the surge in Omicron cases.

Dr Gerrard’s comments come after Australian chief medical officer Paul Kelly said illness had been less severe in children since the pandemic hit Australia’s shores two years ago.

The safe reopening of schools will be on the agenda when the national cabinet meets on Thursday. 

Queensland has delayed the start of the school year by two weeks as Omicron cases surge

Queensland has delayed the start of the school year by two weeks as Omicron cases surge

Queensland has delayed the start of the school year by two weeks as Omicron cases surge

‘For the vast majority of children who have Omicron it is a very, very mild disease,’ Professor Kelly said.

‘It’s related to balancing the wider aspects and the importance of face-to-face learning in schools with the risk of COVID.’

Earlier on Monday, Australia’s former deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth insisted no state should delay the return to school.

‘Every government and medical expert in this country needs to follow the lead of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund, which both state that schools should be the last to close and the first to open,’ he told the Today show.

‘We are not in a situation in Australia that requires a delay to schools opening.’

He added parents should be reassured rapid antigen testing will play a vital role in students returning to school with a ‘test to stay’ strategy implemented in the UK and many European countries. 

‘That is the only sustainable option, actually,’ Dr Coatsworth said.

‘If there’s a case in the classroom, you test the remaining children, if they’re negative on a rapid test, they remain in the classroom because it’s a mild diseases in children, 

‘Because we will gradually vaccinate our five to 11-year-old population, that’s going to be a safe thing to do. I do think that all states and territories should take that approach.’

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that it was important that once schools went back, they stayed back rather than face further disruption experienced in the last two years during lockdowns.

Australia has now surpassed one million Covid cases during the pandemic, almost two years since the country recorded its first infection on January 25, 2020.

More than 500,000 infections have been recorded in the past week.

Dr Coatsworth urged other states to not follow Queensland's lead of delaying the start of the 2022 school year (pictured students in Brisbane)

Dr Coatsworth urged other states to not follow Queensland's lead of delaying the start of the 2022 school year (pictured students in Brisbane)

Dr Coatsworth urged other states to not follow Queensland’s lead of delaying the start of the 2022 school year (pictured students in Brisbane)

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