Early childhood COVID-19 FAQs

Updated 1 March 2021
 

What is the latest COVID advice for early childhood services?

The Department has created a quick reference guide has been developed with information on permitted activities in ECEC services under the COVIDSafe settings.

Do I need to wear a mask at my early childhood service?

Face masks are no longer mandatory in all indoor spaces across Victoria, including in ECEC settings. We recommend that face masks are worn by staff and visitors when physical distancing of 1.5 metres cannot be maintained in communal areas such as foyers and staffrooms.

Unless they have a lawful exception, individuals aged 12 and above must always carry a face mask. A face mask must be worn:

  • when travelling on public transport (including private chartered transport for excursions)
  • in taxis or ride share vehicles
  • when going to shopping centres, indoor markets and some large retail stores such as supermarkets and department stores.

It is recommended that a face mask is worn when you cannot maintain 1.5 metres distance from other people in all other settings.

A face mask must cover the nose and mouth. Face shields, scarves or bandanas do not meet these requirements.

Do services have to check the temperature of children before they enter?

Temperature checks are now optional. 

Centres can choose to continue temperature screening of children on arrival in recognition that it can serve as a visible reminder to ensure unwell children do not attend the service.

What are the obligations of employers to keep staff safe?

All operational businesses are now required to have a COVIDSafe Plan.

The Victorian government has a dedicated coronavirus (COVID-19) phone advice line available during business hours on 1800 338 663.

Worksafe has developed specific advice for employers about their obligations to provide a safe working environment by identifying  and minimising risks, monitoring expert advice and keeping employees up to date with information. The advice also includes information about employees’ responsibilities.

Safe Work Australia (the Commonwealth authority) has also produced specific guidelines for EC

What are the cleaning requirements?

Early childhood settings must ensure regular environmental cleaning takes place throughout the day. This includes:

  • cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces at least twice daily (for example, play gyms, tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, sinks).  It is not necessary to clean or disinfect surfaces after every use but they should be cleaned and disinfected as soon as possible if visibly soiled
  • disinfect shared objects between uses where possible
  • washing and laundering play items and toys including washable plush toys, as appropriate, in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely
  • consider adjusting how families, staff and children interact within the built environment to reduce contact with certain surfaces. For example, a simple measure such as one staff member opening the door to the service will reduce the need for multiple people to touch the door handle.
  • use no-contact infrastructure (for example, use door jams to avoid opening/closing doors as much as possible).
  • clean shared sign-in equipment (tablets, pens) regularly and between users where possible.

Please see our advice sheet for cleaning according to a COVIDSafe Plan.

How can we enact social distancing?

The general advice for the Victorian public to maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres from others will not always be practical for children in education and care settings, notably settings that work with younger children. 

In early childhood education and care services, adults – both staff and parents - should maintain physical distancing between themselves. Strategies will need to be implemented and enforced in the delivery and collection of children, use of office and staff facilities and teaching/learning environments to ensure physical distancing and safe practices.

Services may need to look at a wide range of actions to be considered, implemented and adapted as necessary according to the education setting and the individual needs of the staff and children in attendance. It is understood that not all strategies may be appropriate nor possible in every service. 

For further information on social distancing, transmission reduction and safe/healthy practices in early childhood settings, find DET advice here.

How do we maintain health and hygiene practices?

Early childhood settings are already used to good health and hygiene practices for children, staff and visitors. Staff will continue to work with children on good hand washing practices (and perhaps asking children to wash their hands more frequently) as well as good cough and sneeze etiquette.

Centres should make sure all staff and children have easy access to hand hygiene facilities, where possible.

Hand hygiene stations should be placed at the entry to a centre or learning space at an appropriate height to ensure use and safety. Hand sanitiser should be stored out of reach of very young children to avoid accidental ingestion.  

In addition, centres should keep rooms well-ventilated at all times.

Open windows where possible, make the most of opportunities to use outdoor learning areas or environments and do not run air conditioners on recirculate.

Any air conditioners or heaters should be well maintained.

The Victorian government has made available an e-Learning module to assist early childhood centres in remaining COVID-free.

Can staff be directed to stay home when they have cold and flu symptoms? 

Employees with any cold and flu symptoms should be directed by the employer to leave the workplace until they are well enough to return to work.

An employee has been sick with COVID-19 symptoms and wants to return to work?

Employer can ask employees to a get a COVID-19 test and confirm the results to ensure they are well enough to return to work and do not need to self-isolate.  

What clear direction can a kindergarten can give to a parent regarding attendance of a child, if a child is symptomatic or if the child has been in contact with someone who is waiting on test results or has tested positive?  

DHHS has advised that services should contact DHHS on 1300 651 160 to discuss what to do next if they think a child, student or staff member:

  • has a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • is in close contact with someone with a confirmed case.

DHHS defines ‘close contact’ as someone who has either:

  • had at least 15 minutes of face-to-face contact with someone with a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • shared a closed space for more than two hours with someone with a confirmed case.

It is important that any staff member or child who becomes unwell while at an early childhood service returns home. 

Are we allowed visitors?

There are no longer any restrictions on the number or type of visitors to a centre, as long as a density limit of one person per two square metres is applied.

Visitors must comply with the physical distancing, face mask and hand hygiene recommendations.

To support contact tracing, early childhood centres need to keep a record of the name, phone number, date and time of visitors who attend their service for more than 15 minutes. Electronic record keeping is strongly encouraged. The Victorian Government has developed a QR Code Service which is free to use and can assist with record keeping requirements.

Incursions may also occur, subject to physical distancing between adults.

My question isn't answered here. Who do I contact?

If ELAA or AEU members have specific inquiries, they should make direct contact:

  • ELAA via [email protected]
  • AEU via phone on 1800 AEU VIC (1800 238 842) or 03 9417 2822.

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