Hundreds Of NSW Childcare Centres Closed Due To Covid

‘Serious questions’ need answering


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As Omicron surges through NSW around 300 childcare centres on Tuesday closed their doors temporarily due to Covid.

Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA), report the shortage is due to a public health emergency, caused by staff taking time off because they are unwell with Covid.

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“Early Learning and Care was experiencing a workforce shortage before the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Elizabeth Death, the chief executive of EALCCA. “We are now in a workforce shortage crisis."

“Currently, there are 303 services closed in NSW, 30 in Victoria, 29 in South Australia, 22 in Queensland, three in the ACT and one in NT. Of these closures, 298 are due to health emergency eg Covid-19.”

- Elizabeth Death

Not unlike other industries, the childcare sector is concerned they will have to close off rooms or even entire centres if and when staff and educators fall sick, in order to adhere to child-to-adult ratios stringently regulated in early childhood. 

The NSW Department of Education informed early learning centre directors earlier in the week they are now required to use a risk matrix to determine how likely a child or educator was to have contracted Covid. It also determined that those exposed to a positive case indoors for an unspecified period of time would be deemed 'high risk'.

Meanwhile, the New South Wales teachers’ Union has called upon health and education officials amid safety concerns over the escalating Covid outbreak in the state with students returned to classrooms in early February.

The NSW Teachers Federation president, Angelo Gavrielatos, warns “serious questions” need answering before school resumes for 2022.

“The current plan is the plan we had when schools went into the vacation period,” he told Guardian Australia. “All that’s changed. We are now living in a very different context to what we were in the weeks prior to schools going into summer recess.”

“Who knows what that plan might look like? Who knows how many cases we might have? There are a number of scenarios potentially at play here, including the possibility of remote learning in certain settings.”

- Angelo Gavrielatos

On Tuesday, the Education Department stated it was working closely with NSW Health “to finalise school settings for the start of the new school year and detailed advice for term 1 will be made available soon”.

“The settings will be fit-for-purpose, while also providing time for schools to prepare for the beginning of classes on 1 February,” a spokesperson said.

“We remain committed to reducing the disruption to schools, keeping staff and students safe, and providing a greater degree of normality in line with changes communicated in the final weeks of term 4.”

Meantime, concerns have risen over PCR testing requirements, which could see sick babies, toddlers and young students waiting in sweltering heat and long queues.

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Hit News Team

4 January 2022

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