PM slaps down Karl: 'You're not a doctor'
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has taken the Today show's Karl Stefanovic to task over coronavirus telling the host: "You're not a doctor".
In a series of interviews this morning, Stefanovic and co-host Allison Langdon quizzed government ministers on why social distancing measures were being put in place while parents were told kids should stay in crowded classrooms. Yesterday, the Prime Minister advised people to stay 1.5 metres apart.
Stefanovic laid into the Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan and said the official advice to keep schools running was "all over the shop".
"What we are doing is listening to the very best medical advice and that tells us that at this stage we should leave schools open," Mr Tehan said.
"Because if we shut them now, children would be at home in many cases having to be looked after by grandparents and the elderly and that could pose a risk. And also we need the workforce - we need our nurses, health workers and doctors (many of who are parents) working," said Mr Tehan.
But Stefanovic said there was no way students could remain 1.5 metres apart in schools.
"Even my 14-year-old daughter said 'Dad, we are a lot closer than that at school.'"
Mr Tehan said the medical advice might change and schools might be told to close but that time wasn't now.
"There will be lots of people with a lot of theories that we should be doing certain things. The government's position is clear - let's listen to the best medical advice."
'MIND BLOWING, ALL OVER THE SHOP'
But Stefanovic wasn't convinced.
"Minister, I'm sorry but the level of discrepancy in the advice is mind-blowing. Which is it? 1.5 meters or is it OK to be 30cm apart?"
The minister said all schools had received advice on social distancing and basic hygiene for kids. Further advice would likely be issued on Friday, Mr Tehan said, including potentially extending the upcoming school holidays if it was later advised schools should shut.
'It's all over the shop," said Stefanovic. "Your saying at one point that we need our kids at school but also not running around together spreading the virus and they're saying, hang on a sec, we may need to extend the school holidays."
"What I'm saying is the advice may change," said Mr Tehan. "But at this stage students should be at school."
PM: "YOU'RE NOT A DOCTOR, KARL"
Later in the show Stefanovic took aim at the Prime Minister, saying keeping schools open yet banning mass gatherings was "confusing".
"As a parent, I have to say to you PM, I find this confusing and I find it disturbing. That it's almost okay for our kids to be in an area where there's more than 500 kids," he said.
"I don't want my child to get this, okay? It doesn't make sense to me."
Stefanovic asked whether the "only safe way" to prevent his children from getting the virus was to keep them at home.
"Well that's not the medical advice Karl. You're not a doctor and neither am I," replied Mr Morrison.
"My kids are going to school. I trust the medical advice of those who are responsible for the medical health of our nation. They don't consider these things idly; they consider them very carefully."
The PM reiterated that keeping kids at home could take medical staff away from hospitals as mums and dads cared for their school-age children.
He said there were "lots of opinions" but he was more interested in facts.
"It's a fact that younger people are less at risk and there are greater risks in school closures.
"I'm a parent, you're a parent. We all have the same anxieties about the health of our kids; it's not a competition.
"But it means we have to stay calm and take the best possible advice."
Mr Morrison said schools could close at some point in the future. He added that if someone was diagnosed with COVID-19 at an individual school, it could still be closed.
On Monday, schools in New South Wales introduced new measures to limit the impact of COVID-19 in schools across the state.
Department of Education secretary Mark Scott announced that schools would adopt social distancing measures requiring them to cancel assemblies, excursions, travel, some events and conferences.
"Schools have been a focus of the community and government as the impacts of coronavirus have developed globally," Mr Scott said in a statement.
"The community expects schools to be as safe as possible. We are implementing these measures to provide peace of mind for students, parents and staff."
The cancellations, which will also extend to inter-schools arts, sports, initiative activities and events, come after Mr Morrison's decision on Sunday to keep Australian schools open for the time being despite growing calls for them to shut down.
"People are naturally anxious about the issues of schools," Mr Morrison said, adding that shutting schools down would do more harm than good in stopping the virus' spread.
"As the British chief medical officer observed over the last couple of days, the issue of wide-scale closure of schools, and it may seem counterintuitive, but the advice is this could be a very negative thing in terms of impacting on how these (epidemic) curves operate."
Mr Morrison said students socially distancing themselves from each other was "pretty straightforward".
"You are (to stay) about 1.5 metres away. Ensuring that you refrain from that sort of physical contact, whether it might be a handshake or something a bit more intimate, unless (it's) my close family and friends. It's all common sense."