“We are missing a bit of information at the moment and if we don’t look we won’t find,” Professor McMillan said. “We haven’t yet randomly tested kids to see what is out there.”
Victoria is one of one of only two states without a plan to reopen schools before the end of term two and continues to impose some of the nation’s strictest lockdown rules.
On Wednesday federal Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said Premier Daniel Andrews had “talked about going slower than other states” on easing lockdown restrictions.
“That’s his prerogative. The interpretation of the advice might be slightly different depending on local circumstances,” Professor Kelly said.
UNSW Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, an infection control expert and adviser to the World Health Organisation’s COVID-19 preparedness group, said school staff should be first to get access to testing in schools to give them greater confidence in returning to work.
“To test them will make them feel much better,” she said.
Professor McLaws said parents must also adhere to strict social distancing measures and avoid gathering in large groups.
“I would advise that parents stay away from teachers and other parents.”
Associate Professor Adam Kamradt-Scott said while he supported testing more children, screening for the virus should always be driven by the highest need.
“If kids aren’t developing serious illnesses they are probably lower down the food chain than adults or people with respiratory type symptoms,” he said.
The Victorian government confirmed there was no plan in place for testing in schools but urged people to get tested even if they only experienced mild symptoms. There were plans to establish 12 new mobile testing sites by Sunday.
The Age has previously reported Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has advocated stricter lockdown measures than his interstate counterparts. He has advocated a more conservative position in Australian Health Protection Principal Committee meetings following the extensive briefings delivered to the group by a panel of invited experts.
Only three three more confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported in Victoria on Wednesday, taking the total to 1354. A woman in her 80s died in hospital overnight, bringing the death toll in Victoria to 18. 40 have died in NSW.
This week federal Education Minister Dan Tehan wrote to independent and Catholic schools, offering them a financial incentive to resume classroom learning within four weeks.
Education Minister James Merlino accused the Commonwealth of confusing parents with their “latest intervention” after previously acknowledging the resumption of classroom learning in Victoria was a matter for the state government.
“The confusion is coming from the different positions that the federal government is taking,” he said.
Benjamin is a state political reporter
Melissa Cunningham is The Age’s health reporter.