Dan Andrews’ government is preparing to mandate Covid-19 vaccines for teachers and early-childhood educators – just days after rolling out the measure across the construction industry sparked violent mass protests.
Education Minister James Merlino is set to announce the policy for teachers this week, with department drafts detailing plans to have all staff fully-vaccinated by the end of the year, according to the Herald Sun.
‘A requirement for vaccination of teachers will be important to stop the spread and protect our kids,’ Mr Merlino said last week.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton is reportedly considering the mandate and is expected to make an announcement in coming days.
Victoria has already implemented vaccination mandates for healthcare workers, aged care workers, quarantine staff, and construction workers.
Meanwhile, NSW has already introduced vaccine mandates for education staff, with all school and preschool staff required to be fully-vaccinated from November 8 this year.
NSW Minister for Education and Early Childhood Education Sarah Mitchell announced the rule earlier this month, saying many employees had already rolled up their sleeves.
‘As we prepare for a staged return to school from 25 October, and holding HSC exams from 9 November, vaccinating all staff is essential to increase safety and minimise disruption,’ she said.
‘I’m pleased to see that large numbers of the teaching workforce have already come forward to be vaccinated. Vaccinating staff, along with stringent school restrictions including mask wearing, will help make schools as safe as possible when students return.’
The Victorian policy change comes as parents and teachers grapple with the staggered return to face-to-face learning in Melbourne schools as outlined in Victoria’s roadmap out of lockdown.
Unveiling the plan on Sunday, Mr Andrews announced Year 12 students will be the first group back, returning for five days a week from October 6 until their exams begin.
Prep students will be back to the classroom from October 18 on Monday to Wednesday, and Grades 1 and 2 students on Thursdays and Fridays.
Once 70 per cent of eligible Victorians aged over 16 are fully vaccinated, which is expected to happen by October 26, all other school years will be invited back into classrooms for a few days a week.
Years 3 and 4 will return on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with Years 5 and 6 on Thursdays and Fridays.
Year 7 and 11 students will return five days a week, while Years 8 and 9 will attend on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and Year 10 on Thursdays and Fridays.
From November 5, when an estimated 80 per cent of eligible Victorians will be fully vaccinated, Mr Andrews said schools will return to ‘normal’, with all students back in class every day until the end of term four.
Meanwhile, Melbourne is bracing for its third day of demonstrations over mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations and other restrictions for the construction industry, with protesters warned to stay home.
Several demonstrators have been arrested after arriving in the CBD, with footage showing dozens of police officers handcuffing at least three male and two female protesters on Wednesday morning.
Another video showed around 20 riot squad officers marching swiftly down Elizabeth Street in the city centre – after police vowed they would be better prepared for violence since being caught off guard on Tuesday.
Chaos has engulfed the city centre over the past two days as demonstrators, mostly men dressed in hi-vis workwear, took to the streets voicing their distrust in the vaccine and anger at the government.
The violent mob of hundreds of people brought the city and the West Gate Bridge to a standstill on Tuesday, and at one stage police fired rubber bullets and smoke rounds to keep them under control.
Victoria Police arrested 62 protesters, some for assaulting police, but most for breaching public health orders.
‘I implore you to stay home,’ Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said on Tuesday night.
‘Our tactics tomorrow will be different.’
It is not clear if demonstrators are all union members, with CFMEU Victorian construction secretary John Setka blaming ‘neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists’ for hijacking the event.
He urged construction workers to stay at home.
‘My advice to them would be to not take part in the protest today. It’s been hijacked by extremist groups and it’s not our values,’ he told the ABC on Wednesday.
Premier Daniel Andrews and other unions have labelled the protest as selfish.
‘There is no excuse for the terrible behaviour we have seen in our city over the last two days,’ Mr Andrews said in a statement on Tuesday night.
‘Acts of violence and disruption won’t result in one less case of COVID – in fact, it only helps the virus to spread.’
The ambulance union pleaded with protesters to think of others.
‘The fight against COVID-19 is not in the street. For our health workers the fight is very real, very exhausting, very painful and very dangerous,’ the union said in a statement on Tuesday night.
‘You are thinking of yourself only. There has never been a more important time to match the selflessness of health workers, with your own.’
The state government has shut down the construction industry for two weeks in metropolitan Melbourne, City of Ballarat, City of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast Shire and Mitchell Shire.
Victoria on Wednesday reported 628 new COVID-19 cases – its highest daily tally in the current outbreak and since August 2020 – and three deaths.
There were 603 cases recorded on Tuesday, of which 337 cases are directly linked to 154 construction sites.
Of that number 239 cases are linked to sites in metropolitan Melbourne, including nine people who live in regional Victoria.
Victoria’s roadmap out of lockdown
When the state hits 70 per cent double vaccination on October 26:
*No restrictions on leaving home and 9pm-5am curfew scrapped with the travel limit increased to 25km
*Masks will remain mandatory both indoors and outdoors
*Year 12 students will return to the classroom from the first week of October
*Kindergarten to Year 2 will then return to school followed by all remaining years which are due to be back by the end of the month
*Early childcare to reopen for children of fully vaccinated parents
*General retail will reopen for outdoor service only with click and collect services to remain available
*Hair salons will reopen for the fully-vaccinated with a limit on five patrons
*Hospitality will reopen for seated and outdoor service only for fully-vaccinated patrons and a capacity limit of 50
*Fully-vaccinated groups can gather outdoors in groups of ten while unvaccinated groups will be capped at five
*Entertainment venues will be reopened for 50 fully vaccinated people for outdoor services only
*Groups of 50 fully vaccinated or 10 unvaccinated people will be able to attend outdoor weddings
Groups of 50 fully vaccinated or 20 unvaccinated people will be able to attend outdoor funerals
When the state hits 80 per cent double vaccination on November 5:
*Ten people including dependents will be allowed inside homes with masks only to be required while indoors
*Pubs, restaurants and cafes can open for seated service only, with a cap of 150 fully vaccinated people inside and 500 outdoors
*Indoor dining will also be capped at 150 people while 30 people will be permitted to gather outside
*Gyms will reopen to the fully vaccinated with indoor community sport to be permitted for the minimum number required
*Victorians will still be asked to work from home if possible but will be allowed to travel to work if they are fully-vaccinated
*Hair salons, beauty and personal care services will be available to the double-jabbed and all retail stores can reopen
*Early childcare education will reopen with all students to return to school with additional safety measures in place
*Weddings, funerals and religious services will return for 150 double-dosed guests indoors and 500 outdoorsInternet Explorer Channel Network