Queensland Education Minister Has COVID-19, Back-to-School Announcement Delayed

By Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson is a reporter based in Australia. Contact him on caden.pearson@epochtimes.com.au
January 24, 2022Updated: January 24, 2022

The Queensland government has delayed the announcement of its back-to-school plan because Education Minister Grace Grace has contracted COVID-19.

“We wish her a speedy recovery,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters in Townsville on Tuesday.

“As soon as she is back on deck, the Education Minister and I will make that announcement. I think people can understand that I’d like the Education Minister to be here for that announcement,” she said.

The start of the 2022 school year, originally set for Jan. 23, was delayed until Feb. 7 amid rising concerns that COVID-19 case numbers would surge to “emergency” levels at the end of January and into early February.

That said, Palaszczuk said she was “heartened” to see the predictions didn’t reach the peak levels her government was expecting.

“We’re going to wait to see what happens over the next one to two weeks. The peak and the utilisation of hospital beds is actually are lower than what we were expecting,” Palaszczuk said.

Many school transport services commenced on Jan. 24, when the children of essential workers were allowed back to school before the rest of the cohort.

Some 11 new routes have been announced in Brisbane, Logan, Ipswich, and Bribie Island. It is estimated that around 30 million school trips will be taken in 2022.

“The safety and comfort of all students when travelling is a priority for us, which is why planning ahead and being prepared is important,” Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said in a release that included the 11 new routes.

“Knowing where and when they need to be to catch their school bus will help immensely,” he said.

Students, parents, and guardians can plan their journeys using TransLink’s School Service Finder or Journey Planner or by visiting local operator websites.

“It’s important for students to remember to be patient for the first few weeks of the school year, as the network is monitored and changes may need to be made to services where demand requires it,” Bailey said.

“Masks are also mandatory on all public transport, and we encourage students to social distance onboard where possible.”

The state also expanded its definitions of essential workers to include those in beverage manufacturing, disability care, aged care, and telecommunications.

Workers in these industries, deemed critical, will be allowed to continue to work if they are declared a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case.

“These changes mean more clarity for employees and employers on what a critically essential worker is and what they are able to do,” Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said in a release.

“A critically essential worker is only able to attend the workplace as a close contact to perform a critically essential role when both employer and employee agree.”

For these critically essential workers to perform their jobs, they must have no COVID-19 symptoms, be fully vaccinated, and test negative on a rapid antigen test provided by their employers every two days.