Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia have moved to close schools to most students as they battle to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Leaders in Queensland, SA and WA announced on Thursday school holidays would be brought forward, in a similar move to what Victoria and the ACT have already done.
Teachers will still be at schools so parents who have essential jobs, such as healthcare workers and people who stack supermarket shelves, can send their children.
But all other students are being asked to stay home.
Schools will return after the holidays with distance education.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said heath advice that has kept schools open so far has not changed, but the pupil-free directive provides the right balance given community concerns.
NSW schools remain open but Premier Gladys Berejiklian has urged parents to keep their children at home if possible.
On Thursday, she flagged her state was readying to move into a full lockdown over the weekend, possibly ahead of federal government action, if the situation with the spread of the virus doesn’t improve.
Victorian leader Daniel Andrews made similar comments on Wednesday.
The nation has already had two waves of business closures this week – leading to thousands of people losing their jobs – in a bid to stop people gathering in large numbers or close spaces.
Ms Berejiklian says the success of these measures would be judged by the number of community-to-community transmissions of COVID-19, rather than total case numbers.
“I’m saying to the community that if we’re not convinced we’ve had a sufficient amount of success, NSW will have to take further action and that’s a position I’ve been clear on from day one,” she told reporters.
“If there’s a significant shift … you know you need to take further action.”
Australians must stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people. Indoors, there must be a density of no more than one person per four square metres of floor space.
If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.
If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.
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