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NSW restrictions ease ahead of international re-opening as school RAT debate rolls on

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard (left) with Premier Dominic Perrottet on Thursday

Business groups have welcomed the early easing of restrictions across NSW, saying it has been "tumultuous" trading within the COVID-19 rules.

A number of restrictions are being rolled back earlier than expected across the state in time for the weekend and Monday's re-opening of international borders.

Singing and dancing are allowed to resume in most settings, the two-metre density limit for indoor venues has been scrapped, and QR check-ins are now only required for nightclubs and music festivals with more than 1000 revellers.

The requirement to wear face masks will also cease in most settings next Friday.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said it had been a "very difficult two years here in our state", telling reporters on Thursday:

"Many people have made enormous sacrifices but the efforts that have been made ... ensured we've seen downward pressure on our hospital system."

Business NSW chief executive Daniel Hunter said it meant businesses could now "plan for their future".

A handful of leading institutions in NSW will study the COVID-19 transmissibility rate in schools.

The National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, the Sydney University, NSW Health and the education department will contribute to the study headed by Sydney University paediatric infectious disease specialist Archana Koirala.

Dr Koirala claims that despite high caseloads during the latter stages of 2021, school environments are not considerably higher risk settings for COVID-19 exposure:

"Our findings confirm that vaccination of students and teachers as well as other mitigation measures in schools and the wider community can keep transmission low in educational settings."

However, the data collated is reflective of positive caseloads reported prior to the Omicron outbreaks throughout Australia’s festive period.

Meanwhile the NSW branch of one teachers' union wants free rapid antigen tests for students and teachers for at least six more weeks.

Independent Education Union NSW/ACT NSW Branch Acting Secretary Carol Matthews said the safety of school students and staff was dependent on free access to continual RAT testing.

"With ... more than 20,000 NSW students caught COVID in the first two weeks of Term 1, it is clear that ongoing testing is essential...It is a critical element of keeping school communities safe."
"It is unfair that teachers, support staff or parents should have to pay for their own RATs so they can keep themselves, their workplaces, their students and their loved ones safe."
"It puts them under undue financial strain at a time when their salaries are not keeping pace. They are frontline staff and should not be burdened with this added expense."

12,000 positive RAT Covid-19 infections were reported by parents across the week which began on February the 7th.

Compliance has been strong from parents availing themselves of supplied RAT testing kits according to a survey including 80,000 participants which showed more than 90 per cent of parents have used the supplied test kits.

The school RAT program is set to be extended by six weeks in of Victoria and the ACT.


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