Victorian school children who become primary contacts of positive COVID-19 cases will be able to isolate for half the amount of time if they receive negative rapid antigen test results.
It comes as the Doherty Institute releases new modelling showing that daily rapid antigen testing of contacts is as effective for outbreak prevention as 14-day contact quarantine — if tests are negative — and reduce how many days of face-to-face learning students miss.
All Victorian schools from Monday, November 15, will have access to 200,000 rapid antigen tests at no cost to schools or families that will be used to test students who become close contacts as they complete seven days of isolation at home.
Students will take the test on their sixth day of isolation, and then once returning to school on day eight they will take the test daily until day 14.
Victorian education minister James Merlino said as long as the test was negative the student could continue to be at school.
“I have been listening to school communities, parents, carers and students themselves about the impact that 14 days of isolation has had on them,” Merlino said.
“Students can return back to school, even if they are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated; they can return to school after seven days of isolation.”
The tests will primarily be for those aged under 12 who are primary close contacts as a result of a positive case at school, with the age group yet to have approved access to a COVID-19 vaccination.
The government supply will save families from purchasing the tests for children, with chemists online listing prices as $50 for a pack of five rapid antigen tests.
The TGA has flagged there could be a final decision on primary school children receiving the vaccine by the end of the month.
Meanwhile, booster jabs for people who received their second COVID-19 vaccination dose six months ago opened through pharmacies and GPs on Monday.
Federal health minister Greg Hunt said the program would have an initial focus on residential aged care and disability facilities.
“The booster rollout program will initially target population groups that were prioritised for early vaccination because the great majority of people within these cohorts are now ready for their booster vaccination,” Hunt said in a statement.
“In relation to residential aged care facilities, the booster program will start with in-reach clinics delivered primarily by vaccine administration providers under contract arrangements with the Commonwealth.”