WA ramps up protocols as state experiences “high caseload environment”
New COVID-19 protocols came into play across Western Australia yesterday, with new close contact definitions, test isolation protocols and a reduction in isolation times.
Importantly for the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, the changes also include specific school and childcare centre close contact protocols. High caseload protocols for schools and childcare settings were introduced from Tuesday 8 February to help manage the higher number of COVID-19 cases while minimising the transmission of the virus on these sites.
A specific school and early childhood and education centre close contact definition for a high caseload environment is now in place, similar to those that apply to the general community, to safely reduce the number of staff and students considered close contact.
The definition of close contact with a positive case in a school or childcare setting will include:
- Face-to-face contact for 15 minutes or more with an infectious person, where a mask was not worn by the exposed person or the person with COVID-19;
- Interaction for more than two hours in a small indoor space or interaction for more than two hours in a classroom environment with an infectious person, where masks have been removed for this period; or,
- Someone who is directed by WA Health that they are a close contact.
Additional measures will also be implemented to minimise the risk of COVID-19 entering or being transmitted on school grounds, including:
- prohibiting indoor face-to-face events
- cancelling or postponing school camps
- limiting the mingling of groups
- modification to timetables, break times and pick-up and drop-off times where practicable.
In the event of exposure, staff working in schools or childcare centres are encouraged to get a PCR test to confirm if they are COVID-19 positive, especially while demand at clinics can be managed.
The following also applies for parents:
- parents will be permitted on school sites for drop-off and pick-up in outdoor locations only;
- gatherings of parents on school sites should be avoided;
- parent teacher interviews will occur online or over the phone; and,
- mask wearing for parents will be expanded to outdoors where physical distancing can’t be maintained in regions with existing mask mandates.
In childcare settings, where very young children and babies are involved, early childhood and education centre operators should facilitate drop-off and pick-up where practicable.
For more information, visit WA’s Safe Return to School Plan. The implementation of these protocols follows the announcement of new close contact definition and testing and isolation guidelines last month.
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