Australian children are being urged to get off their devices and back on to sporting fields as the country emerges from a period marked by pandemic lockdowns and other heavy COVID-19 restrictions.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Saturday pledged another $20 million for the Sporting Schools program which would see it expanded to include up to 700,000 students in years 9 and 10 if his government is re-elected.
Mr Morrison said no one in Australia had done it tougher in the pandemic than the children of Victoria.
“They’re looking forward, they’re putting that behind them and they know the opportunities that are ahead,” he told media in Melbourne’s outer east.
“The competition is on, they’re playing sport again, they’re with their mates, they’re at school, they’re getting life back to normal – it’s exciting.
“The country is in a very similar position.”
Victoria endured more than 260 days in lockdown throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, more than any other state in Australia.
Mr Morrison said Australia was heading into a time of great opportunity, and he and the government were shifting gears to secure them.
“We need to get (children) off those phones and get them on the field,” he said.
“They can have fun with their devices … but we want them out there running around.
“We are moving into a golden decade of major events for sport in this country.”
Lockdowns in other states and territories also hit the sporting sector hard, with cancellations of major events and community sport.
The Victorian government also announced on Saturday another $12.3 million to continue its Get Active Kids voucher program through to June 2023.
The program grants parents and carers $200 vouchers to put towards their children’s community sport costs.
Meanwhile, a COVID-19 vaccine for babies and toddlers is another step closer after Australian regulators confirmed they are evaluating a low dose of Moderna’s Spikevax.
There are currently no COVID-19 vaccines approved for children under four, with kids aged five and over given the Pfizer jab.
Spikevax is available for children over six and Moderna Australia has applied to the Therapeutic Goods Administration to extend it to younger children.
The TGA on Friday confirmed it is assessing using a low dose of Spikevax, 25 micrograms in 0.25ml, for children aged between six-months and five-years-old.
That is below the 50 micrograms in 0.25ml measurement that is currently used for children aged six to 11.
Spikevax, an mRNA vaccine, uses a genetic code to enable the production of the coronavirus spike protein.
Immune cells then recognise the spike protein as foreign and begin building an immune response against it.
LATEST 24-HOUR COVID-19 DATA:
NSW: 10,954 cases, 19 deaths, 1377 in hospital, 58 in ICU
VIC: 12,160 cases, 22 deaths, 524 in hospital, 24 in ICU
TAS: 925 cases, no deaths, 39 in hospital, one in ICU
QLD: 6130 cases, five deaths, 414 in hospital, 12 in ICU
ACT: 1001 cases, no deaths, 71 in hospital, five in ICU
WA: 13,162 cases, two deaths, 292 in hospital, 10 in ICU
NT: 278 cases, no deaths, 18 in hospital, no one in ICU
SA: 3816 cases, five deaths, 217 in hospital, 11 in ICU