NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has angrily hit back at suggestions she has caused confusion among parents after yesterday saying schools would stay open but urging kids to stay home.
“Look, our direction in schools is very clear,” she said during a press conference this morning.
“Schools stay open. If you need to send your child to school, schools stay open. However, we are recommending at this time that parents keep their children at home. And I said that yesterday, and I say that again today.”
Ms Berejiklian bristled at a reporter’s suggestion that she had caused an “unacceptable” level of confusion on schools.
“I don’t care what criticism I get,” she said.
“Throw it at me, because I’m doing it because I believe it’s in the best interests of the citizens of New South Wales.”
Ms Berejiklian reiterated she had a “no-regrets policy”.
“I’m incredibly pleased with the decisions we’ve taken to date, I don’t regret any of them, because I believe they’re in the best interests of our citizens, and I continue to make decisions based on the best interests of our citizens, because we are in uncertain times,” she said.
“I want to look back and think that every time we made a decision it was the right one for our people.”
The Premier said NSW was a very different state to the rest of Australia, with the highest number of cases and the most people returned from overseas.
“But to give you assurance, we also have the highest rates of testing, and that’s what’s giving me comfort,” she said.
She said she appreciated it was a challenging time for parents and noted that up to a third were already keeping their children home last week.
“Yesterday, that number went up substantially, even before the messaging around what we were recommending,” she said.
“Let me be frank – based on health advice, we don’t know what the next five or six weeks will look like. We are entering a period where our schools are about to go into school holidays, and it’s appropriate for us to make sure we get the home learning up and ready.”
She added, “This has been a good chance for us, an opportunity for us, to make sure that whether it’s through web-based tools or whether it’s through home learning, that we have the systems in place to support our children, to support our students, given what we might face into the future.”
Confirmed coronavirus cases in Australia surged again overnight, with the national tally now close to 2000.
At least 1888 people have now been diagnosed with the virus, with NSW reporting 149 new cases overnight and Victoria reporting 56 more since Monday morning.
Ms Berejiklian said NSW is now at a critical stage and people needed to self-isolate where necessary, stay home if they can, and social distance.
“This is a difficult time for us, but I am confident NSW will control as much as we can the spread of this virus, so long as everyone steps up and does what they need to do,” she said.
She warned that people who needed to self-isolate would face harsh penalties if they were found breaking the rules.
“We are ramping up our compliance. We’re making sure that people are followed up,” she told reporters.
“If they’re supposed to be in self-isolation and they’re not, there are harsh penalties and we’ll enforce that. We have to take this seriously.”