The state of New South Wales in Australia enacted a new COVID-19 measure that allows children aged 18 and under to choose two friends each to be a part of their “friend bubbles” and socialize with their chosen friends in their own homes during lockdown.
The details of the measure restrict children to only two other friends in their “bubbles.” They may not change which friends are in their bubbles later. If a child is in a 3-person friend bubble they may not be chosen to be part of a fourth friend’s bubble. Additionally, all adults in the households participating in the measure are required to be fully vaccinated, and are not allowed to socialize or remain at the home once they have dropped off their children.
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell told the Sydney Morning Herald that the friend bubbles may also help year 12 students studying for their graduation exams, the Higher School Certificate exams. She told the Herald, “Year 12 students have had a stressful few months, and with the HSC approaching, a study bubble is a great idea to help students maintain motivation, receive support from a classmate and continue their preparation for the upcoming exams.”
The measure comes after months of lockdown amid a COVID-19 surge in Australia that has sent children back home from schools and workers home from their jobs since August. Young people in NSW have been voicing their concerns over their own mental health and social lives, according to state Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
“Parents and children have had a difficult few months, trying to balance both work, often from home, as well as homeschooling,” she said. The move is considered relatively safe given the state’s high vaccination rates. NSW has averaged over 1,000 cases a day for the past several days, as hospitals and emergency departments struggle to keep up with the surge.