NSW Chief Health Officer urges parents not to use ECEC as Delta wave forces closures
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant made a statement yesterday urging families not to use early childhood education and care (ECEC) services unless there was “an absolute need to send (children),” stating that “if they’re just working from home, that wouldn’t be, in my mind, a reason to do it”.
“[We’re] seeing outbreaks in childcare centres and that’s a feature we haven’t seen in previous outbreaks because the Delta strain seems to be able to transmit more in the childhood setting,” Dr Chant said during a press conference.
Her statement was made against the backdrop of the temporary closure of 146 ECEC facilities, the bulk of which are in New South Wales, under emergency measures because of an “immediate risk” to children posed by the Delta variant of COVID-19.
Health authorities have signalled concerns about Delta being transmitted amongst children, as calls grow for the government to outline a timetable for vaccinating children given there are now almost 3,000 cases recorded in Australia in children under the age of ten.
As the service closures continue, peak ECEC advocacy bodies have joined calls from the Opposition lobbying the Federal Government to support the ECEC sector to ride the wave of the pandemic, concerned about the risk to service viability as a result of gap fee waiver measures.
Almost 100 of the services which are temporarily closed are in NSW, with 28 closed in Victoria, and 19 in the ACT.
An epidemiologist from the University of Sydney has compelled the Government to release more information about the transmission of COVID-19 in ECEC settings, saying parents need access to this level of information to make informed decisions about the risk of sending their child to care.
“Parents currently feel that childcare and school is safe, and they need it, so they are sending their children,” Professor Alexandra Martiniuk told The Guardian.
“We need transparency from the government who have the data. It is only fair to families and parents and childcare centre staff and owners to be aware of the number of childcare centres currently closed due to exposure to a COVID-19 case – so that people can understand the true choices they are making when they send their child to care, or attend work.”
She described ECEC settings as an environment “likely ripe for contagion”.
“It does strike me as quite a risky proposition to have a group of children in a room with the doors and windows closed with a group of workers and all kids who may not be vaccinated. That is not ideal. People are likely to get COVID-19 if there is a COVID-19 case in there. Delta is very contagious.”
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