Venue density rule and social distancing is not practical or appropriate in ECEC, AHPPC says

Venue density rule and social distancing is not practical or appropriate in ECEC, AHPPC says

by Freya Lucas

May 26, 2020

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) published a statement on Early Childhood and Learning Centres (ECLC) on 6 April 2020, which was updated yesterday to include information in relation to the practicalities of social distancing in early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings


Making a series of recommendations, such as that unwell staff, children and visitors do not attend, that children, staff and parents should use appropriate hand and respiratory hygiene, and centres should use an enhanced cleaning regimen, the statement made a controversial recommendation (since redacted) that all those working in, attending, or visiting an early childhood education and care (ECEC) service should receive a flu vaccination. 


The AHPPC have again built on their original statement in an update yesterday, 25 May, saying the following: “AHPPC does not believe that the ‘venue density rule’ of no more than 1 person per 4 square metres is appropriate or practical in ECEC, nor is maintaining 1.5m between children. This extends to rooms, corridors and outdoor play areas.”


AHPPC said that the above advice applies to children interacting with other children, and also to adults providing care or interacting with children in this environment. 


This recommendation was backed by AHPPC’s note of “very limited evidence” of transmission between children, with population screening overseas showing very low incidence of positive cases in school-aged children. 


“In Australia, less than 1 per cent (0.8 per cent) of confirmed cases have been in children under 5 years of age, as at 15 May 2020,” the statement read. 


AHPPC further advises adults, including those employed in ECEC contexts to “undertake physical distancing when interacting with other adults, in areas such as staff rooms and when picking up or dropping off children”.


In closing, AHPPC said that the document on ELCLs “is broad” and that decisions on how to apply the guidance “should be made by each jurisdiction with consideration of their local epidemiology and context”. 


This clarification complements AHPPC’s statement on Early Childhood and Learning Centres (ECLC) which may be accessed here


Information in this article was correct at time of publication, however services are encouraged to use due diligence and conduct their own research with a primary source such as the AHPPC prior to implementation.