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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 16 September 2021) . . Page.. 2598 ..

to pretty much any other outbreak across the country, for our size of jurisdiction. Every single jurisdiction has seen long waits for testing at the beginning of an outbreak. It is simply not possible to quadruple your testing capacity overnight. But the broad answer to all of Mrs Jones’s questions is: the Delta variant has changed the game.

MRS JONES: Minister, why did you leave staff having to work with systems not properly stress-tested before we were in the middle of the biggest outbreak we have had to deal with in the ACT?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: The team has been working incredibly hard to ensure that our systems were able to cope with the volume that they have seen, but this is a very large job for a relatively small jurisdiction. We have also been working, over time, to replace the contact tracing client management system, but we are working with a system that we have had for some time and that the team is familiar with, and they have worked very hard to ensure that it can do the job.

MR PARTON: Minister, why were our systems overwhelmed so many times and why were your assumptions about the severity of a possible outbreak so wrong?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I do not think that Mr Parton’s question is covering any new ground there, so I will refer him to my previous answers.

Schools—remote learning

MR HANSON: My question is to the Minister for Education. According to reports in the Canberra Times today, medical experts have warned that schools should return “as soon as possible” because children have a low risk of severe symptoms but suffer “a heavy toll learning at home” and staying at home could affect children's social development. Your own ministerial statement today states that you have “only a plan for the first four weeks of term 4,” while the Deputy Chief Medical Officer is quoted in the media today as saying the planning is still underway and there will be more said about that. Many parents have expressed anger, confusion and dismay at this lack of certainty or hope. One mum has told us she cries every day. Minister, when will you offer certainty and hope to ACT students, teachers and parents, and bring forward a plan for children from preschool to year 10?

MS BERRY: I thank Mr Hanson for the question. I think that question has been responded to by the Chief Minister and by the health minister. The Delta variant has meant that this virus moves differently within our school communities as well. It has reached into our schools and our early childhood sector in a way that the previous virus did not move in the ACT. So we need to take a fair amount of caution about our approach to returning to face-to-face education within our school communities.

Mr Hanson: Madam Speaker, a point of order on relevance: the minister may get to it, but the specific question was about when she will bring forward a plan. And I ask her to be directly relevant and tell us when we will see the plan.

MADAM SPEAKER: I think she is on track to describe her approach to returning students to schools.

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