Queensland schools will be pupil-free from Monday but vulnerable children and the kids of essential workers will still be able to attend.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk issued the student-free directive on Thursday, saying it applies to all schools, not just state schools.
Queensland recorded 50 new cases of coronavirus overnight, taking the total to 493, but no one is currently in intensive care.
Saturday’s local government elections will proceed as planned, despite the state’s rising tally.
Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young says it’s safe for people to vote if they practice social distancing, and she’s more worried about how people are behaving in bottle shops.
“There is no risk going to vote on Saturday. I’m more concerned with people going to Dan Murphy’s, the scenes I’ve seen there are appalling,” she said.
“Go in, vote, and leave.”
In announcing the student-free move, the premier said there had been no change to the health advice that’s kept schools open so far.
But she said the change was about striking the right balance, including the needs of essential workers and community concerns about the schools-open policy.
Vital staff, from healthcare workers to supermarket shelf-fillers, can continue to send their kids to class from Monday.
Vulnerable children can also still attend and arrangements will be made to protect high-risk education workers.
But parents in non-essential jobs should keep their kids home, and make sure they are learning, not “out and about at shopping centres”, the premier said.
Teachers will use the student-free days to prepare for mass online and remote learning.
“We are making it very clear that student-free days mean that teachers are going to be at school. The schools are going to be open,” Ms Palaszczuk told reporters.
“We have a lot of frontline workers out there … that actually need to have their students at school.”
Education Minister Grace Grace said community kindergartens would also go pupil-free from Monday. But long daycare centres would remain open to ensure vital workers can continue working.
Earlier on Thursday, the Australian Medical Association of Queensland repeated its concerns about the elections potentially spreading coronavirus.
It has urged voters to wear face masks to polling booths, if they have them.
The AMAQ also wants express voting lanes for the elderly to reduce their risk of infection.
It also says people who don’t vote due to coronavirus fears should not be fined.
Queensland has closed its border with NSW, causing gridlock for kilometres on the M1. Only essential traffic is now allowed, including fright trucks and people who must cross the border to get to work.
State Disaster Coordinator, Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski called for patience following a “soft launch” of a website providing permits for exempt travel.
Passes will be available for people to print at home and applicants will display them on their vehicle so they can cross the border more easily.