A primary school in the northern suburbs of Melbourne has been temporarily shut down after a teacher tested positive to coronavirus, the Victorian Government has announced.
- Meadowglen Primary School in Epping will be closed from Monday to Wednesday
- Health authorities are investigating how the teacher contracted the virus
- An additional 13 coronavirus cases have been identified, including six more related to a Melbourne abattoir
At a press conference on Sunday morning, Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said a teacher at Epping’s Meadowglen Primary School had tested positive to the virus.
Ms Mikakos said the school would be shut down from Monday to Wednesday to enable cleaning and contact tracing.
The Department of Health and Human Services confirmed the case yesterday and was working to support the school, she said.
Parents, carers and staff were contacted by the school to let them know a staff member had tested positive.
“Students who need to attend in person and have no other option … will be supported to be able to attend a neighbouring school,” Ms Mikakos said.
She said that given 97 per cent of Victorian state school students were studying from home the potential for transmission was limited and students who were at the school but not in the teacher’s classroom may be able to go straight to a neighbouring school.
‘Brilliant music teacher’ in good health
Meadowglen principal Loretta Piazza told Melbourne radio station 3AW the infected staff member was a “brilliant music teacher” who was in good health.
“I spoke to him this morning, he’s doing just fine,” Ms Piazza said.
Ms Piazza said the teacher had been at the school recording videos for students learning from home.
He had not come into contact with any students during the days he had attended the school’s music room and staffroom.
She said contact tracing had only identified two other teachers as close contacts who needed to undergo a fortnight of self-quarantine.
“The good news is that no adults, no staff at our school are showing any symptoms either,” she said.
More cases identified at Melbourne abattoir
Ms Mikakos said Victoria recorded 13 new coronavirus cases overnight, bringing the state total to 1,384.
It is the biggest single-day increase in Victorian cases since April 18 when 17 new confirmed cases were announced.
Six of the new cases relate to the cluster at an abattoir in Melbourne’s outer suburbs, in addition to the eight already identified at the facility and another one who tested positive on Friday.
Of the other new cases identified in the past 24 hours, three were returned overseas travellers in quarantine, one was a close contact of a past case and the other three were identified through the Government’s testing blitz.
Victoria’s death toll remains at 18.
Ms Mikakos continued to refuse to name the meatworks, saying there was no threat to public health because of the thorough response to the cluster.
She said the decision had not been made “based on anyone’s reputation”.
Source of school infection under investigation
Ms Mikakos said health authorities did not yet know how the teacher contracted the virus and were investigating potential sources of the infection including colleagues or students.
“There might have been a tradesperson, there might have been someone else that attended that school in recent days,” she said.
Anyone who believes they might have been exposed to the virus should call the coronavirus hotline or attend a screening clinic.
She said any close contacts of those exposed would need to self-isolate.
“This is not about blaming the teacher or any individual who might test positive,” she said.
“People can contract coronavirus very easily … this is not about anybody feeling guilty about going to get tested.
“We know the only way that we have managed to slow down the spread of this virus is the vast majority of Victorians doing the right thing and staying home.”
Tension bubbles over between State and Federal Governments
Earlier on Sunday, Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan lashed out at Victoria, urging parents to ignore Premier Daniel Andrews and instead follow medical experts and send their children back to school.
Speaking on Insiders, Mr Tehan accused Mr Andrews of taking a “sledgehammer” to the state’s education sector as tension bubbles over between the State and Federal Governments.
Minutes later, the program broke the news that the Victorian Government was about to announce a school closure due to a coronavirus case.
During this morning’s press conference, Ms Mikakos responded by questioning whether Mr Tehan’s comments reflected Canberra’s views.
“I think it’s important that the Prime Minister clarifies today whether Dan Tehan is speaking for his government,” she said.
“I refer you back to the Prime Minister’s own comments, just recently, where he asked Victorian parents to listen to the advice of the Victorian Premier.
‘We are the Government that runs our schools in Victoria’
Ms Mikakos insisted state authorities were best placed to decide the future of the schools.
“I encourage Victorian parents to continue to heed the advice of our Government,” she said.
“We are the Government that runs our schools in Victoria, we are the Government that is leading the public health response that is keeping Victorians safe.
“If we just look to the fact today that we’ve had a staff member in a school test positive.
She said the advice remained unchanged, which was that Victoria should continue to learn online for the “foreseeable future”.
“If that changes, then of course Victorian parents will be the first to know.”
Ms Mikakos said the State Government was “absolutely committed” to giving all children of all backgrounds the best possible education.
As a product of a working-class family, she said she was absolutely committed to making sure that all children got opportunity.
“This is a response to a public health emergency, an unprecedented emergency … one that we have not seen in this magnitude for 100 years,” she said.
“They [online learning measures] are, of course, temporary measures and we will continue to reflect and respond to the contemporary data.”
More to come.