Victorian public school students who travelled to China during the summer break will not be excluded amid fears the deadly coronavirus is spreading.
On the advice of health officials, government schools will only expect a student to stay away if they are a confirmed case or have been exposed to someone who is confirmed to have the virus.
Students who have been exposed to a confirmed case should not attend school or childcare until 14 days after their last contact.
The advice comes as authorities believe there is insufficient evidence to suggest people who do not have symptoms of coronavirus are infectious.
“The chief health officers have been unanimous in saying this is a proportionate and evidence-based policy position,” Victoria’s chief health officer Dr Brett Sutton told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Schools with international students were told of the advice on Friday, with other public schools and Catholic schools informed on Monday.
There are 6000 international students in Victoria’s public school system and about 2500 of them are from China.
Some private schools around the country have taken action to split students who have visited China recently from the wider student body.
Firbank Grammar School in Melbourne is among those who have told parents to keep children at home for at least two weeks if they have visited an affected area in China or had contact with anyone who has travelled from China in the past two weeks.
Dr Sutton said schools have the right to make such decisions.
“If others feel that they want to take a more highly precautionary approach, then I guess they’ve got freedom to so do,” he said.
Schools have also been reminded that good personal hygiene can help protect against respiratory illnesses such as novel coronavirus, including washing hands regularly and covering the mouth and nose when coughing.
Education department deputy secretary David Howes said schools have welcomed the advice.
“Schools overall have been reassured. They have been grateful for the clarity of the advice and have been reassured that the appropriate risk treatment is in place,” he told reporters.
Victorian students return to school this week..