Starship paediatrician wants same effort from Govt put into schools as MIQ

Source: 1News

A leading paediatrician at Starship Hospital hopes the same effort the Government has put into improving MIQ will be used for schools so children in Auckland and Waikato can go back to the classroom.

The final term of this year's school calendar began on Monday with Auckland and Waikato students unable to return to the classroom and prepare for their end-of-year exams due to the current lockdown restrictions in place across the regions.

Dr Jin Russell told Breakfast on Wednesday morning ahead of the Government's education announcement later in the day she hoped Auckland students will be back in the classroom safely.

"Schools are an essential service for kids," Russell said.

"We really do hope today that we hear [Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins] announcing that schools can reopen [in Auckland] and when and that we can do this as safely as possible."

Russell said she hoped the Government would also set high marks for safety with the reopening, even if not every standard could be of a "gold standard".

"I'd really like a commitment from the Government to continue to improve our response just the way that we have with MIQ," she said.

The "gold standard" Russell spoke of and wrote about for The Spinoff has three key factors - ventilation, vaccination and vital measures - which she said she took from Victoria's school reopening plan.

Children in classroom

"We really need all eligible young people and their families now to be vaccinated," she said.

"That will help us reopen schools as safely as possible and it's very welcome that the Government has reached for 100 per cent of teachers on site to be fully vaccinated soon."

Besides the jab - a vaccine she emphasised was "incredibly safe" - Russell said ventilation or filtration will play an important role in keeping Kiwi kids safe too.

"We know that Delta is airborne so we really need to lift our game on ventilation and it is very effective in driving down Covid-19 transmission in classrooms.

"But I've also talked about filtration and we may not be able to do this immediately but I think this is important because we're talking about clean air...I wonder if it's possible for us to have portable air purifiers like they're doing in Victoria.

"They can clean 99.9 per cent of Covid-19 particles out of the air. Victoria has provided 51,000 of these units to their classrooms and I wonder, maybe it's not possible to do every classroom, but maybe we could do much harder to ventilate classrooms or classrooms with lots of students in them."

On the third 'v' - vital measures - Russell said she was speaking of basic practices such as mask-wearing, distancing and preventing mixing.

"We can reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission within schools to very low but we still need everyone around that school in the community to stick to the rules .

"Because that will mean that Covid-19 spread around the school that will then lead to childen within the school becoming infected."

Hipkins will make announcements on education at Wednesday's 1pm Covid-19 update alongside Dr Ashley Bloomfield.