Vic to unveil back-to-school COVID plan
Victoria is expected to detail its back-to-school plan, as extra teachers are recruited in a bid to cope with COVID-19 disruptions when classes resume.
The state government is yet to reveal what safeguards will be rolled out to protect students and staff from the rampant Omicron wave when term one begins on January 31.
It is expected those plans, mooted to include rapid tests for students, could be announced as early as Sunday.
COVID Commander Jeroen Weimar confirmed the government and health authorities were considering various options.
"There'll be announcements in the next few days around the details of what that looks like," he told reporters on Saturday.
NSW and Victoria pitched their plan for re-opening schools to national cabinet on Thursday, after which Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the federal government had agreed to split the cost 50-50 with states opting to surveillance-test students and teachers.
Victorian public and low-fee independent schools have also been promised 51,000 air purifiers before the start of term one.
Fewer than half had been delivered by mid-January but Mr Weimar insists the program is "on track".
It comes as inactive or retired teachers, retired principals and other education staff are being recruited to plug COVID-related holes in the workforce.
Recruits will be sent to local schools to replace teachers and other education support staff at short notice, if and when they contract COVID-19 and need to isolate.
"Every sector is under pressure from the Omicron variant and education will be no exception - but we're taking action early to make sure staff absences don't mean huge disruptions for students' learning," Education Minister James Merlino said.
Mr Weimar said it was a "simple, pragmatic measure" to ensure schools don't have to shut in the first weeks due to staff shortages.
The pool will only be available to government schools, which educate about two-thirds of primary and secondary students across the state.
Victoria recorded a further 20 virus-related deaths and 16,016 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday.
Mr Weimar said the state's seven-day case average has dropped to 20,954, while its test positivity rate is down to 20 per cent after hovering in the mid 30s.
"We're in a far better place than we were three weeks ago. We've got rapid antigen tests really starting to flow through. We've got cases under more control," he said.
Meanwhile, an "Invasion Day" march in Melbourne on January 26 has been cancelled, with organisers citing COVID-19 concerns.
Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance said it would be careless to hold the event at the height of a pandemic, as many in the Indigenous community are stuck down by the virus.
"This is the first time since 2015 WAR hadn't organised this rally and we want to be on the street fighting for our people but the time isn't now," the group said in a Facebook post.