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School delayed by two weeks as Omicron peak nears

Term 1 has been pushed back to February except for students in years 11 and 12, while Omicron hospitalisations are expected to “escalate substantially” from next weekend.

“This is exactly what is necessary for this virus to ultimately become endemic in the community,” he said.

“That is absolute critical. It has to happen this way.

“But the next few weeks will be a challenge, particularly on our healthcare system.”

Modelling predicted that Omicron would peak in late January to early February, the leaders said on Sunday.

“Therefore, it is not desirable to have our children back starting school during the peak of this wave,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

In another significant announcement, Ms Palaszczuk said a narrow group of essential workers could resume duties under strict criteria, even if they were quarantining as close contacts of known cases.

She said this was to keep “the lights on” in critical industries serving the supply or maintenance of power, water, agriculture, freight, fisheries, sewerage systems, health and education.

Businesses would need to submit a plan, including protective measures covering transport, and a list of critical workers to the government.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the exception was only for those quarantined workers who could not perform their critical tasks from home.

The changes would come into effect from midday on Sunday.

Ms Grace said the changes to the school term would apply to all Queensland primary and secondary schools plus kindergartens. They would also include Catholic and independent schools.

But she could not guarantee the term would begin at the new scheduled date of February 7.

“I don’t think there are guarantees at the moment for anything, to be honest, but we want as much certainty as we can possibly provide,” she said.

Ms Grace said teachers would not be forced to take leave or days off, but rather prepare the curriculum as though the extended holidays were regular non-pupil days.

Most would do this work from home because schools would operate on a skeleton staff, she said.

Dr Gerrard said most of the state’s infections were among young people, but the Omicron variant would undoubtedly move through older and more vulnerable populations as well.

“If it’s four months since your second dose of vaccine ... please, please get that booster,” he said.

The real number of active infections in Queensland was significantly higher than the 80,563 recorded as of Sunday, Dr Gerrard added.

“We know there are people out there who are either testing themselves at home or who are simply having symptoms and not testing – or who have mild symptoms and don’t recognise they have COVID.

“It’s very hard to quantify how big that group is.”

More than 91 per cent of Queenslanders aged 16 and older have received one dose of a vaccine, while 87.7 per cent are fully vaccinated.

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