Coronavirus: Scott Morrison tells parents why schools have not closed

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has addressed parents' concerns about the the decision to keep the nation's schools open as the country battles to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

In a video posted on social media tonight, Mr Morrison said closing schools would be detrimental to efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, but admitted he and wife Jenny had also wondered if it was right to send their two daughters to school.

He said that while schools remain open at the moment, he "suspects" that situation would change in the future. 

"As a parent, I understand and know there's a lot of anxiety at the moment amongst parents and kids in Australia about whether or not we should be closing our schools to help stop the spread of the coronavirus," he said.

"It's a fair question. It's one Jen and I have asked ourselves as well and it seems, on the surface, a logical thing to do.

"But one of the things we've done as we've sought to manage the impacts of the coronavirus is we've relied heavily on the expert advice of our medical experts – the Chief Medical Officers of all the states, and territories and the Commonwealth – and they're all united on this at the moment and that is that closing schools at this time could potentially worsen the situation."

More than 70 countries around the world have closed their schools. There has been some criticism of the decision to not close Australian schools after some countries with fewer coronavirus cases than Australia, including Ireland, Israel, Portugal and Poland, sent students home.

"But right now the medical expert advice is that such a move would be premature and could be very detrimental to our fight against the virus at this time," Mr Morrison said. 

Mr Morrison said the decision to keep schools open at the moment does not mean they will not be closed "in coming weeks" as advice about the best way to fight the spread of coronavirus changes. 

"I suspect that could happen," he said.

Mr Morrison said closing schools now would mean many parents working in essential services would have to remain home with children.  

"Now that includes doctors, and nurses, and health officials – these are the very people that we need working in their fields right now responding to this health crisis," he said.

"It could put additional stress on a system that will face many challenges in the weeks and months ahead."

In addition closing schools would mean many children of working parents would be cared for by grandparents who are  among "the very people who are most susceptible to the serious illnesses from this virus," Mr Morrison said.

"We have to ensure that our most vulnerable to a serious illness from the virus are protected."

Despite the decision to keep schools open, any school found to have a confirmed coronavirus case among staff or students would be dealt with on a case by case basis.

"The states have already shown, swift arrangements are in place for those schools where there has been outbreaks. And they have responded in those cases.That's very sensible and that action is being taken," Mr Morrison said. 

"And already state education departments are putting in place arrangements to help kids and teachers practice what we call social distancing."

"And if the advice changes, and I'm sure as time progresses and events change, we will also change with those events and we will move quickly and we'll keep relying on the best possible information and ensuring that we keep you informed every step of the way.

"But at this stage, the advice is that, at a general level, to keep those schools open."