Children with flu-like symptoms will have to show a negative COVID test result befoe they are allowed back in the classroom.
Children with flu-like symptoms will have to show a negative COVID test result befoe they are allowed back in the classroom.

COVID clinics busier than ever after changes to school rules

PARENTS and carers of schoolchildren with a runny nose have flocked to respiratory clinics across Northern NSW in order to get their children tested and back to school.

From Wednesday, a new Public Health Order required children who presented with flu-like or COVID-like symptoms needed to be tested and be negative, before they were allowed to return to school.

>>> READ MORE: COVID-19 crackdown at schools: Tests for kids with symptoms

Northern NSW Local Health District chief executive, Wayne Jones, confirmed the number of COVID tests had increased, and they were expected to remain that way.

“Across our Local Health District, in the past days, we had 345 tests conducted on Monday, 529 on Tuesday and 459 on Wednesday,” he said.

“That jump is not small, which is fantastic,” he said.

“It is an inconvenience for everybody, we acknowledge that, but the bulk of that increase, I’ve been told, are children, so people are responding very well to this new expectation in the Public Health Order.”

Mr Jones said the goal was to identify any positive cases early on.

“Children normally present with a lower level of symptoms, and we don’t want parents or carers to think it’s just the flu,” he said.

“We want to check that it is just the flu and not COVID.”

He confirmed 80 per cent of people get their test result within 24 hours.

>>> Click here for a list of testing clinics

A spokeswoman for NSW Department of Education confirmed the updated COVID guidelines for schools did not apply to early childhood centres.

She said a runny nose or a simple cough was enough to get a child sent home until a COVID negative result was produced by a parent or carer.

“In accordance with advice from NSW Health, parents and carers are reminded not to send children to school if they are unwell, even if they have the mildest flu-like symptoms,” she said.

“Schools will make arrangements for students who present as unwell or have flu-like symptoms to be sent home.

“Students and staff with flu-like symptoms will need to provide a copy of a negative COVID-19 test result before being permitted to return to school.”

The NSW Catholic Schools website indicated “students and staff who were unwell with respiratory illness should remain at home until symptoms resolve”, but there was no mention of requiring a negative test.

COVID testing station. File photo.
COVID testing station. File photo.