Victoria extends COVIDSafe measures in early childhood until the end of Term 1

Victoria extends COVIDSafe measures in early childhood until the end of Term 1

by Freya Lucas

February 18, 2022

The Victorian Government will extend its COVIDSafe measures in schools and early childhood settings until the end of Term One. 

 

Initially intended to run for the first four weeks of Term 1, the measures – including rapid antigen surveillance testing – will now continue until the end of term, and the Government will distribute an extra 24 million rapid antigen tests (RATs) to schools and early childhood services accordingly.  

 

“Our littlest learners are still unable to be vaccinated – so we’re continuing strong COVIDSafe measures to protect kinder kids, and those who care for them, in kinder services across the state,” Minister for Early Childhood Ingrid Stitt said. 

 

Burnet Institute modeling estimates that, assuming a 75 per cent compliance rate with screening of children, the RAT program has prevented more than 21,000 COVID-19 infections.

 

Continuing the RAT surveillance for the full 10 weeks of Term One is expected to prevent more than 61,000 COVID-19 infections in children aged between 5 to 17, and therefore more than 150,000 COVID-19 infections in the community (on average 2,100 less infections per day), and around 400 hospital admissions.

 

The testing settings will remain the same, with all primary and secondary school students and staff, and early childhood education and care staff and children aged between three and five years, recommended to test at home twice a week, while students and staff at specialist schools are recommended to test five days a week.

 

With global supply increasing, and in anticipation of colder weather when windows may have to be shut and outdoor learning reduced, the Labor Government will deliver a further 60,000 air purifiers – enough to cover every classroom in government schools and low-fee non-government schools.

 

Eligible kindergarten services will receive a further $3.8 million in grants to support ventilation improvements and keep children and staff safer at kinder, and give families confidence that early learning is safe. The new grants will be available later this term to support the purchase of air purifiers for learning spaces or other improved ventilation. 

 

Vaccination, the Government emphasised, remains the best way to protect students and staff. School and early childhood staff must receive a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by 25 February to continue working in education settings, unless they have a valid exemption. 

 

For staff who became fully vaccinated after 25 October 2021, this deadline is 15 March, unless they have a valid exemption.

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