Parents of young kids hoping for an easier start to the working year have already been dealt a blow with childcare centres closing and the threat of the school year being disrupted yet again.
Almost 270 childcare centres had already closed in NSW on Tuesday, according to the Sydney Morning Herald today, throwing return to work plans for parents into absolute chaos, as many then found themselves with young kids waiting in long queues to get the required PCR test.
The closure stats have quickly revealed to parents some of the challenges ahead for 2022. Especially with children under five unable to be vaccinated.
With staff set to be kept at home due to illness or isolation requirements, many centres may struggle to operate for weeks at a time.
Earlier this week, the NSW Department of Education gave updated advice to childcare centres indicating that directors must determine the likelihood of a child or educator contracting COVID-19 based on a risk matrix. That means it is up to directors to determine who is deemed high risk, and therefore their testing and isolation requirements.
The matrix notes that any child or staff member who has been indoors for a period of time with someone who then tests positive for COVID-19 is at a “high risk of infection”. Those deemed high risk will need to isolate until receiving a negative PCR test, and will not be able to return to an early childhood education setting for another seven days. Those deemed as a ‘moderate risk’ will not be required to isolate, but are asked to do an at-home rapid antigen test.
Early childhood education staff and educators are already in short supply and have reported high levels of stress and burnout throughout the pandemic. They are now set to face even more challenges, given the likelihood of multiple outbreaks across their workplaces, and the need to manage concerns, pressures and demands from parents.
With more than 35,000 positive cases recorded in NSW tests today and many kids having not even started back in childcare from holidays, it’s clear there will be many, many more childcare centre closures in coming weeks.
NSW Health is yet to give advice regarding isolation and testing requirements for the state of the new year.