Announcements have been made regarding VCE students, who will be permitted to sit for their Year 12 exams even in cases where they are close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases.

Victorian Education Minister James Merlino confirmed that “students who are primary close contact can sit their exams in a dedicated room with a separate entrance either by themselves or safely distanced from other students who are also primary close contacts depending on the school’s capacity”.

He said the students will be supervised by staff wearing face shields and healthcare workers.

“The rooms will be safely ventilated and cleaned between each use,” he said.

“Help us keep the community safe, each student who is a primary close contact needs to be tested every 48 hours through the first week and after their exposure on day 13. If the students are fully vaccinated, they are in isolation for seven days, and for students without a vaccination, they are in isolation for 14 days but have an exemption to go and sit their exam.”

Mr Merlino said regular testing is the “key to ensuring that students and the broader community are kept safe and making sure we pick up any further spread nice and early”.

He said, “The process for students who test positive for coronavirus will not be changing, so they won’t be able to attend school or sit their VCE exam and they’ll receive a derived examination score for any exam that they miss and obviously there’s the consideration of educational disadvantage process to make sure that every single student, their marks and the impact of COVID is reflected in their final results.”

Mr Merlino confirmed that TGA approvals permitting, rapid antigen testing will be rolled out in school campuses across Victoria.

Teenagers who are confirmed to have contracted the virus will not be able to sit their exams. Instead, they will instead receive a derived score.

There are currently 49 schools where there had been an exposure in the last ten days, including St John’s College and Alphington Grammar.

Deputy Premier James Merlino said the state’s drastic jump in COVID case numbers to 2,297 cases and 11 deaths on Thursday had come as a surprise.

“We had hoped to see a plateau in numbers but today’s number still lands in the projected range of the Burnett modelling,” Mr Merlino said.

The deaths included a man in his 50s from Moonee Valley, a man in his 60s from Moreland, and two men from Melton, aged in his 60s and the other in his 70s.

A man in his 50s almost died along with a man in his 70s from Shepparton. Two women – one in her 70s and another in her 80s – also died, as did a man in his 80s from Brimbank.