The Northern Territory’s education union is warning of a potential “exodus” of public servants at Christmas, despite government warnings to stay home.
NT Government teachers have been told to reconsider any plans to travel interstate during the current school holidays, amid the threat of coronavirus hotspots appearing in southern states.
NT Education Minister Lauren Moss has urged them “to remain cognisant of the Chief Health Officer’s directions”.
“As we saw last school holidays, hotspot declarations can be made very quickly, so I urge teachers considering travelling interstate these school holidays to reconsider,” Ms Moss said.
Australian Education Union NT president Jarvis Ryan said last school holidays saw “more than 50” teachers forced into quarantine after hotspots were announced in Victoria and NSW.
“There’s an element of risk for anyone going interstate that you could end up in Howard Springs [quarantine facility] to get back,” Mr Ryan said.
“But we have to weigh that up with the fact that people have not seen family, they may have sick loved ones, people they need to care for.
“These arrangements have obviously put a strain on people, particularly in remote areas.”
‘You need to plan for this eventuality’
Greater Sydney and the entire state of Victoria remain designated hotspots in the NT, meaning anybody who enters the Territory from those jurisdictions must be quarantine two weeks.
Mr Ryan said the largest number of NT teacher recruits hailed from Victoria, and many of them had been separated from family members since pandemic lockdowns began.
He said even if teachers decided to heed the Government’s advice now, they were likely to head home over Christmas.
“Whatever’s going on in Victoria at Christmas time with hotspots and what not, they will go to Victoria to see their family,” Mr Ryan said.
“We’ve said to the department you need to plan for this eventuality, that we will have a large number of teachers and other public servants that will go interstate during that Christmas break.”
‘Privacy concerns’ over new database
NT teacher Sayle Johnston said he was planning to head to South Australia for a holiday next week.
The non-government school teacher said it would be the first time he had left the NT since January, and the chance of a coronavirus outbreak leaving him trapped was a risk worth taking.
“Of course it’s on my mind,” Mr Johnston said.
“But I trust that the public health system that we have in place will allow us to, you know, having learnt from the mistakes in Victoria, I trust that we’ll be able to keep it contained.”
Mr Johnston said he understood the Government’s concerns, but many teachers would be eager to see friends and family interstate, especially over the Christmas break.
For NT Government teachers who do go interstate these holidays, the department has set up a Safe Travel Register database, which the union says has seen some members raise “privacy concerns”.