AHPPC issues statement about how ECEC can stay COVID-19 safe

by Freya Lucas

April 07, 2020

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has issued an early childhood education and care (ECEC) specific coronavirus (COVID-19) statement, which makes a series of recommendations about how services can reduce the risk of community transmission of the virus. 

 

One such recommendation at time of original print (7 April 2020) was that from 1 May 2020, visitors and staff (including parents and visiting workers) should not be permitted to enter the facility if they have not had a flu shot. 

 

This information has since been amended to remove the reference to 1 May 2020, and to revise the recommendation to say that a core risk minimisation measure is that children, staff and parents should receive a flu vaccination. The title of this piece was amended 10 April 2020 to reflect the changes.

 

As previously advised, services are encouraged to read the statement in full, available here.

 

While reports on COVID-19 in children show that they are less likely than adults to be infected and have severe illness, they are still vulnerable to the pandemic coronavirus, and as such, measures should be taken to ensure their safety.

 

The Committee’s advice is that pre‑emptive closures “are not proportionate or effective as a public health intervention to prevent community transmission of COVID-19 at this time.”

 

That being said, AHPPC made the following recommendations in relation to those who should be restricted from entering ECEC premises during the pandemic:

 

  • Those who have returned from overseas in the last 14 days.
  • Those who have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days (A contact is defined as anyone who has been in contact with a known case, including the 24 hours before the case became symptomatic) 
  • Those with fever or symptoms of acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath) symptoms.
  • Those who have not been vaccinated against influenza (after 1 May 2020).

 

With ECEC settings viewed as essential services at this time, AHPPC has recommended the following risk mitigation measures, in order to allow them to operate as safely as possible during the pandemic:

 

  • exclusion of unwell staff, children and visitors
  • reduce mixing of children by separating cohorts (including the staggering of meal and play times)

 

  • enhanced personal hygiene for children, staff and parents:
    • make sure liquid soap and running water, or alcohol-based hand sanitiser is available at the entrance of the facility and throughout

 

  • full adherence to the NHMRC childcare cleaning guidelines, in addition:
    • clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces at least daily (e.g. play gyms, tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, sinks)
    • wash and launder 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

 

  • excursions other than to local parks should be discouraged, public playground equipment should not be used
  • influenza vaccination for children, staff and parents.

 

The AHPPC further recommends that alternative care arrangements should be considered for children who are “highly vulnerable to adverse outcomes should they be infected with COVID-19”, saying that parents should seek medical advice for these children.

 

The role that children play in transmission and amplification of COVID-19 remains largely unknown and therefore the AHPPC will continue to closely monitor the evidence as it emerges to inform public health policy.

 

To read the statement in full, please see here

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