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2021 COVID-19: Childcare Updates

36 Mins read
  • Due to the lifting of most restrictions and lack of regular updates, this blog will no longer be updated daily. However, we will continue to share any important updates on COVID-19 regulations that pertain to the childcare sector.

Wednesday, 15 December 2021 

Tasmania announces vaccine mandate for childcare workers 

On 14 December, Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein announced a vaccine mandate for all childcare workers in Tasmania. Childcare workers will have until 8 January 2022 to prove they’ve received their first shot. 

Tuesday, 14 December 2021 

NSW government advice for coping with COVID-19  

The New South Wales government has updated its COVID-19 guidelines and resources for childcare centres and parents. Resources include:   

New isolation rules for close contacts in Queensland  

From 1 January 2022, new quarantine rules will go into effect for Queenslanders. Close contacts who’ve been fully vaccinated will only have to self-quarantine for seven days, but from days 8–15, they cannot visit high-risk settings, including schools and childcare centres

Monday, 13 December 2021 

Temporary Financial Hardship subsidy  

To qualify for Additional Child Care Subsidy Temporary Financial Hardship, families need to meet specific criteria. Aside from already being eligible for CCS and having a substantially reduced ability to pay childcare fees, families must also have experienced temporary financial hardship due to an event that occurred in the past six months. Families can cite COVID-19 as such an event. 

Friday, 10 December 2021 

Tasmanian government to consult with childcare sector  

Despite Tasmania’s vaccine mandate for public servants, which goes into effect on 15 December, Tasmania remains the only state without a vaccine mandate for childcare workers. The government has confirmed its intent to consult with the childcare sector regarding the possibility of a vaccine mandate.  

Guidance on vaccine requirements for Victoria childcare  

With 90 per cent of Victorians over the age of 12 fully vaccinated, Victoria has reached Phase D with vaccination requirements applying to everyone over the age of 12. Vaccination requirements don’t apply to children in an education and care service, but the vaccine checking exemption doesn’t apply to school holiday care or outside school hours care service (OSHC). More information is available here. 

Thursday, 9 December 2021 

New emergency management direction in effect for South Australia 

As of 12:49 pm 8 December 2021, the Emergency Management (Education and Early Childhood Settings Vaccination No 2) (COVID-19) Direction 2021 has come into effect. It revokes the Emergency Management (Education and Early Childhood Settings Vaccination) (COVID-19) Direction 2021. Read the full direction here

Wednesday, 8 December 2021 

Do childcare centres need to use the Check In Qld app?  

Restrictions on businesses will be eased from 17 December 2021 in Queensland. Though many private businesses will be required to use the Check In Qld App, kindergartens, childcare centres and after school hours care services are not required to use the app. They should maintain updated student information and visitor logs, and they should use the Check In Qld App for fetes and graduations. 

Tuesday, 7 December 2021 

Municipality of Katherine lockout extended 24 hours     

The lockout for the Municipality of Katherine and Rockhole community has been extended to 12 pm Wednesday 8 December. At 12 pm today, 7 December, the Binjari community will transition to a lockout, while the Lajamanu areas remain in a lockout. Additional information is available here

Friday, 3 December 2021 

Queensland childcare centres responsible for enforcing vaccine mandate  

Education Minister Grace Grace has said that responsibility for enforcing the COVID-19 vaccine mandate will fall on centres. The mandate requires anyone over the age of 16 visiting any “high-risk settings” (such as childcare) to have received one dose of the vaccine by 17 December and to have their second shot by 23 January 2022. Employers will also be responsible for ensuring staff are properly vaccinated. 

Thursday, 2 December 2021 

Disagreement over vaccine mandate for childcare workers in Tasmania 

Tasmania Premier Peter Gutwein had defended his decision not to implement a vaccine mandate for childcare workers. He cited low vaccination rates in other Australian states while highlighting Tasmania’s 87.5% vaccination rate. Meanwhile, Rebecca White, Labor Leader, is calling for a vaccine mandate in the childcare sector.  

Wednesday, 1 December 2021 

Concerns over Tasmania’s lack of vaccine mandate   

Helen McArdle, state president of the Australian Medical Association, is in favour of a vaccine mandate for childcare workers in Tasmania, the only state without such a policy. She points out that even if vaccines are approved for 5–11 year-olds, children under five will still be at risk. 

Tuesday, 30 November 2021 

Lockdowns/lockouts extended in Northern Territory  

The lockout for Katherine (including Rockhole) has been extended to 12 pm on Tuesday 7 December 2021, while the Robinson River lockout is still set to end on Wednesday 1 December 2021. The Lajamanu community and surrounding homelands are in lockdown until 6 pm on 11 December 2021, while Binjari is in hard lockdown. More information is available here.  

Vaccine mandate for childcare workers in Queensland  

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced a vaccine mandate for Queensland, which applies to childcare staff. All childcare staff must have had at least one dose of a vaccine before 17 December 2021 and their second vaccination by 23 January 2022. 

Monday, 29 November 2021 

Vaccination rules now in effect for childcare workers in Victoria   

Starting today, Monday, 29 November 2021, childcare workers in Victoria will be required to show a vaccination certificate when they arrive at the centre. If childcare staff have a vaccine exemption, they must provide a legitimate certificate showing they are exempt from the vaccine mandate.    

Parents in Sydney urged to avoid childcare, if possible  

The chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, is asking parents not to send children to childcare unless they absolutely need to. She stated that simply working from home is not a justifiable reason for sending children to childcare. 

Thursday, 25 November 2021 

Lockdowns extended in Katherine, Robinson River in lockout  

Katherine will be in lockdown until 4 December 2021, and the hotspot has been extended until 11:59 pm on the same date. The Robinson River area will be in lockout until 1 December 2021, but the hotspot expired at 11:59 on 24 November 2021. Meanwhile, the Binjari and Rockhole communities are in hard lockdown until further notice. Early childhood services are close in Binjari and Rockhole, while childcare is available to children of essential workers in Katherine.  

Call for vaccine mandate in Tasmania  

During a parliamentary session on Wednesday, 24 November 2021, Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP called for a vaccine mandate for childcare workers in Tasmania. While education and support staff in Tasmania are currently required to be vaccinated, there is presently no such mandate for childcare workers. 

Wednesday, 24 November 2021 

Proof of vaccine not required to access all council facilities in Yarra Ranges  

Proof of vaccination is required for all visitors aged 12 years and 2 months or older to access council facilities such as libraries and cultural facilities. However, proof of a COVID-19 vaccination is not required to access council childcare facilities. 

Tuesday, 23 November 2021 

Katherine and Robinson River hotspot extended  

Dr Sonya Bennett, Acting Chief Medical Officer, has extended the hotspot until 11:59 pm on 24 November 2021 for Katherine and Robinson River and surrounding homelands. The extended hotspot allows childcare centres to receive Commonwealth support.  

Rapid antigen testing now available to Victoria childcare settings  

As of today, rapid antigen testing is now available to anyone suspected of contracting COVID-19 in a childcare setting. After testing positive, staff or students are only required to isolate for ten days instead of the previous 14, and children can return to childcare after a negative PCR test. 

Monday, 22 November 2021 

Vaccination requirements for childcare workers in South Australia  

All people working in early childhood settings in South Australia are required to have had at least their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine by 11 December 2021. This mandate applies to all people who attend an early childhood setting during their work, including full-time and part-time workers and casual workers and volunteers. People with medical exemption letters must provide the operator of the childcare setting with a copy of the certificate or letter.  

How are childcare centres dealing with COVID-19?  

Katina Curtis, a political reporter, joins Rachel Clune on Please Explain for a 10-minute chat about how childcare-related COVID-19 regulations differ from state to state, when young children might get vaccinated and specific challenges centres face trying to combat COVID-19. 

Friday, 19 November 2021 

Victoria removes restrictions for fully vaccinated  

With Victoria set to reach a vaccination rate of 90% over the weekend, most restrictions in Victoria have been lifted as of Friday, 19 November 2021. Though restrictions have been lifted, positive cases are still required to notify their workplace, school or childcare. Childcare centres must then inform staff and families of anyone believed to have come in contact with the identified case.  

Pressure on Queensland for vaccine mandate  

As one of only two states without a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, Queensland is under growing pressure to adopt a vaccine mandate for childcare staff. Tasmania is the only other state without a vaccine mandate for teachers and childcare workers.  

Hotspot for Robinson River extended  

Originally set to end at 11:59 pm on 18 November 2021, the Hotspot for Robinson River and surrounding areas has been extended to 11:59 pm on 22 November 2021.   

Thursday, 18 November 2021 

Mandatory vaccine mandates creating issues for childcare sector 

With most states (except Queensland and Tasmania) mandating that all childcare staff be fully vaccinated, some centres are facing staffing shortages. Some centres are being forced to reduce places, cut hours of operation or increase fees.  

Summary of COVID-19 policies for the childcare industry  

Though most childcare staff must be vaccinated, there are some exceptions. A summary of current regulations, vaccine exemptions, and other requirements can be found here

Wednesday, 17 November 2021 

Thrive by Five calls for a better COVID plan to protect kids   

Former premier Jay Weatherill, head of Thrive by Five, a childcare advocacy initiative, called the federal government’s failure to consider children under five in its COVID-19 planning inappropriate. Nicole Breeze, UNICEF Australia’s child rights director, called on the government to prioritise a national plan that includes young people.  

Mandatory vaccines for childcare centre staff in South Australia    

On 16 November 2021, the Education and Early Childhood Settings Vaccination Direction 2021 came into effect in South Australia. All early childhood education centre staff (from full-time workers to volunteers) must have received their first vaccine by 10 December 2021 and “must have a plan” for their second dose before the 2022 school year.  

Hotspot declared for Katherine and Robinson River areas  

Dr Sonya Bennet, Australian Government Acting Chief Medical Officer, declared a hotspot for Katherine and Robinson River (and surrounding homelands) for the purpose of Commonwealth support. The hotspot declaration ends at 11:59 pm on 22 November 2021 for Katherine and 11:59 pm on 18 November 2021 for Robinson River.  

South Australia prepares for border opening on 23 November  

South Australia’s Department of Education will coordinate a centralised contact tracing team to work in conjunction with the Communicable Disease Control Branch in the event of a confirmed case at a childcare centre. Centres will continue to perform daily cleaning through the end of term 4. More information is available here

Tuesday, 16 November 2021 

South Australia to repeal border restrictions next week 

South Australia’s 23 November deadline for repealing border restrictions is a week away. The government is still finalising plans for testing, isolation and quarantining when COVID-19 cases occur at childcare, which will include a visit from staff from the communicable disease branch for a risk assessment. Further details will be released on 23 November.  

72-hour snap lockdown for Katherine and Robinson River  

 
As of 6 pm, 15 November, Greater Katherine and Robinson River have entered a 72-hour snap lockdown. Children of essential workers can attend childcare in Katherine, while centres in Robinson River will be closed. 

Monday, 15 November 2021 

Victoria to send free rapid antigen testing kits to childcare centres  

The Victoria state government will send kindergartens and long day care centres free rapid antigen testing kits this week. Children identified as close contacts will be permitted to return to the centre after seven days, provided they return a negative COVID-19 PCR test on day six. Centres must agree to perform rapid antigen testing for days eight through fourteen.  

NSW makes change to worker’s compensation   

On Sunday, 15 November, the New South Wales government amended the current worker’s compensation law, putting the onus on employees to prove they caught the virus at work. This decision will affect most workers in the customer service industry, including childcare workers.  

Hundreds of childcare centres have closed since lockdown ended   

Since New South Wales exited lockdown in early October, over 300 childcare centres have had to close due to COVID-19 cases associated with the centres. 

Friday, 12 November 2021 

Most restrictions lifted in ACT; masks still required in special cases 

Restrictions surrounding mask-wearing in the ACT were lifted on 12 November 2021. Masks are no longer required when inside or outside in most situations, but adults must still wear masks in childcare centres. 

Thursday, 11 November 2021 

Parents and paediatricians call for rapid antigen testing 

Over the past month, more than 300 childcare centres have closed due to COVID-19. Centres typically close for a couple of days for sanitisation after an identified case, and unvaccinated close contacts are forced to quarantine for 14 days. Parents and paediatricians are calling for the use of rapid antigen testing to reduce the disruption to families.     

Wednesday, 10 November 2021 

Australian Childcare Alliance supports government COVID-19 relief 

The ACA commends the decision by the Australian Government to provide extended support to families whose children must isolate following a COVID-19 health order. This measure will be in effect until 30 June 2022 and will allow childcare providers to waive gap fees when a COVID-19 case at the service mandates a closure or partial closure of the service. Families will be allowed a further ten allowable absence days during the same period, bringing the total to 52 days of allowable absences per financial year.   

Tuesday, 9 November 2021 

Restrictions eased in New South Wales 

Stay-at-home orders are no longer in effect across New South Wales. To combat the spread of COVID-19 in childcare centres, parents and carers who’ve been fully vaccinated do not need to self-isolate with their child if their child has been designated as a close contact. However, fully vaccinated parents and carers are not to attend early childhood centres for the length of the close contact’s isolation period. Unvaccinated parents and carers will be required to self-isolate for the entire length of the close contact’s isolation period.    

Katherine lockdown has ended but others extended 

The Katherine lockdown ended at 5 pm on Monday 8 November, but a mask mandate will be in place until 5 pm Friday, 12 November. Several areas remain in lockdown until midnight on Tuesday, 9 November. More information here

Monday, 8 November 2021 

Several areas are in lockdown in the Northern Territory 

Katherine exited lockdown at 3 pm 7 November 2021 but is now in lockdown until midnight on 8 November. Several other areas are also in lockdown until midnight on 8 November (details here). While in lockdown unvaccinated parents may drop children off at childcare, but they are not permitted to enter the facilities.

Friday, 5 November 2021 

Childcare sector still looking for guidance 

Childcare centres are still seeking guidance on preventing and dealing with outbreaks of COVID-19. Although Australia is set to reach an 80% double vaccination rate in the coming days, and even after 5–11-year-olds are vaccinated, children under four will account for 19% of the unvaccinated population, constituting six per cent of the total Australian population.  

Thursday, 4 November 2021 

Parts of New Zealand are at various Steps of Alert Level 3 

Childcare centres in Upper Northland (Alert Level 3) can provide childcare to tamariki (children) of parents who must go to work. Auckland is at Alert Level 3 Step 1, and Waikato is at Alert Level 3 Step 2, meaning centres can reopen to all tamariki, but there is a 10-child per bubble maximum. Home-based learning services in Aukland and Waikato may provide care to tamariki. Read more here

Wednesday, 3 November 2021 

No changes for New South Wales Early Childcare Education Centres 

A statement from the NSW Premier, the Hon Dominic Perrottet MP, announced planned roadmap changes would be brought forward from 1 December to Monday, 8 November. Despite moving up these changes, there will be no change in operation for NSW ECEC services. 

Friday, 29 October 2021 

Government seeking advice to keep childcare centres safe  

Greg Hunt, Federal Health Minister, is seeking updated advice on keeping childcare centres COVID-19 safe. Research from the Doherty Institute and advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee will be submitted to the next national cabinet meeting on 5 November.  

Hotspots extended in all LGAs in Greater Melbourne  

Professor Paul Kelly, Australian Government Chief Medical Officer, extended the Hotspot in all LGAs in Greater Melbourne until 11:59 pm on 4 November 2021. The Hotspot has been extended to continue Commonwealth support.  

Calls for childcare subsidy system to be overhauled  

After two years of lockdowns and shutdowns brought on by COVID-19, some early childhood advocates are seeking an overhaul of the childcare subsidy system (CCS). Some centres decided not to waive gap fees as they tried to balance reduced staff hours and payrolls.  

Parents understanding but still frustrated with COVID-19 testing  

For the most part, parents are understanding of the policy by early childcare centres to have children tested for COVID-19 if they show any symptoms, no matter how mild. Many centres are following the advice of the Victorian government, which advises that children be tested for COVID-19, even for such mild symptoms as a runny nose. 

Thursday, 28 October 2021 

Children under five soon to be Australia’s largest unvaccinated population 

With vaccine approval for five to eleven-year-olds coming as soon as the end of November, children under the age of five will soon make up 40% of the unvaccinated population in Australia. With typical approaches used to stem the spread of COVID-19 more challenging to implement with young children, early childcare centres will need to develop new strategies. 

Wednesday, 27 October 2021 

Restrictions for entering Victoria Council facilities 

Once Victoria reaches its 80% vaccination target, visitors to Council facilities must either be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or be medically exempt and wearing a mask. These vaccination restrictions are waived for those visiting Council facilities for the purpose of childcare.   

Friday, 22 October 2021

Early childcare open in regional Victoria

Regional childcare services are open to all regional Victorian children. Children from metropolitan Melbourne can attend regional centres if they are children of single parents, children of authorised workers or vulnerable children.

Hotspot extended in Greater Melbourne, lifted for Mildura

Professor Paul Kelly, Chief Medical Officer for the Australian Government, has extended the hotspot for all LGAs in Greater Melbourne. This will enable them to continue receiving Commonwealth support. The hotspot for the Rural City of Mildura has been lifted.

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Childcare workers in Western Australia must be vaccinated

Premier Mark McGowan announced that vaccinations would become mandatory for most workers, including childcare staff, before the end of the year. Childcare workers are part of the second group, meaning they must have had their first shot by year-end and their second shot by 31 January.

Children attending childcare weren’t behind the spread of Delta

The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute conducted a study of 51 schools and early learning centres in New South Wales from 16 June to 31 July 2021. Professor Fiona Russel from the institute remarked, “ … but as we open up everything, preschools and early childhood centres are probably contributing very little to broader community transmission and numbers”.

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

ACT restrictions for some essential businesses to be lifted

As of 11:59 pm on Thursday, 21 October 2021, the ACT will loosen restrictions for several businesses. From 25 October 2021, early education and childcare centres will be open. Services need to follow guidance from Health Guidelines for Schools and Early Childhood Education Services for return parameters.

Purchased air purifiers may not be used in NSW classrooms

Despite purchasing 19,000 air purifiers for state schools in NSW, the Department of Education will only distribute them during air quality emergencies over the summer. Government policy is to create natural ventilation by opening windows.

Childcare reopens for all in New South Wales

From 18 October 2021, all children are permitted to attend early childhood education and care. Parents are no longer encouraged to keep children at home when possible. Early childhood education educators and staff must be fully vaccinated by 8 November 2021.

Monday, 18 October 2021

Melbourne lockdown to end early

Victoria is set to reach a 70 per cent fully vaccinated rate this week, which will see the lockdown lifted from 11:59 pm on 21 October. Restrictions on leaving home will be fully lifted, and childcare will be available to children currently in care and those whose parents/guardians are fully vaccinated.

Friday, 15 October 2021

Hotspot extended in Greater Melbourne & Victoria

Professor Paul Kelly, Australian Government Chief Medical Office, extended the hotspot for all LGAs in Greater Melbourne until 11:59 pm on 21 October 2021. Childcare services will continue to receive government support related to allowable absences and support payments, provided they meet eligibility criteria.

Childcare services can still waive gap fees in several areas

Though government support for waiving gap fees ended in many parts of Australia, some regions of NSW, Victoria, and the ACT can still waive gap fees, access additional allowable absences and get business continuity payments. Details are available here.

Thursday, 14 October 2021

National rollout of COVID-19 vaccines—early childhood education

The Australian Government has been working in tandem with state and territory governments on the implementation of the COVID-19 Vaccine National Rollout Strategy. Information and guidelines on this process are available here.

Early childhood education services to reopen in late October in ACT

From 25 October 2021, early childhood education and care will open to families in the ACT

Mandatory vaccinations for childcare workers in the Northern Territory

Childcare workers who fall into Category 1 (likely to come into contact with people at risk of severe illness from COVID) and must be fully vaccinated to be eligible for work. Staff must have received their first vaccination by 12 November 2021 and have an appointment for their second dose by 24 December 2021. Employers must maintain records of employee vaccinations records. 

Tuesday, 13 October 2021

New South Wales COVID-19 Restrictions

All early childcare staff are reminded to book vaccination appointments with their GP as soon as possible to be fully vaccinated by the 8 November deadline. Staff must wear masks at all times, indoors and outdoors, except in some instances. More details here.

New Zealand early childhood centre staff vaccine mandate could lead to shortages

On Monday, 11 October, the New Zealand government announced early childhood centre staff who come into contact with children will be required to be fully vaccinated by 1 January 2022. But five teachers across two centres in Waikato don’t want to get the Pfizer vaccine, which would make them unable to work and leave the centres short-staffed. 

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

New South Wales and Jervis Bay hotspot extended

Professor Paul Kelly, Australian Government Chief Medical Officer, extended the Hotspot until 11:59 pm on 18 October 2021 for all LGAs in NSW and the Jervis Bay Territory. This allows the Commonwealth to continue to provide support childcare services, provided all eligibility criteria are met.

Monday, 11 October 2021

Melbourne parents may have to resume paying full childcare fees starting in mid-October

On Friday, 8 October Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly announced that there would be a one-week extension to the state’s COVID-19 hotspot status. Despite that announcement, parents in Melbourne may soon have to resume paying full childcare fees even though they cannot send their children to childcare due to lockdown restrictions. Due to the last-minute nature of Friday’s announcement, some childcare providers had already informed parents that they would have to resume charging gap fees that the government had waived during lockdown.

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Rapid tests to be sent to childcare centres in Victoria 

Rapid antigen tests will be sent to childcare centres in the coming months as part of Victoria’s COVID-19 response. Health Minister Martin Foley expects that eventually children will use these tests in childcare centres.

Travelling for Childcare permitted within an Alert Level 3 area in New Zealand

Auckland and parts of Waikato are Alert Level 3 areas. You do not require approval if leaving your home for a permitted reason. If this includes a shared childcare arrangement, you are encouraged to carry evidence of this arrangement, such as proof of address of both households. If you cannot produce such evidence, you may be prevented from travelling by the travel operator or other authority.

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

In NSW, OOSHC open to children who need it
NSW is currently following Level 4 school guidelines in Bayside, Blacktown, Burwood, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool, Parramatta, select suburbs within the Penrith LGA, Strathfield. Though parents must keep children in primary and secondary school at home, outside of school hours services (OOSHC) remain open to families that need them.

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

Early learning services will be open to all in New Zealand

With early childcare set to reopen in New Zealand, the Ministry of Education released a bulletin late on 4 October 2021 stating childcare will be available to all parents, not just working parents that can’t find another form of childcare. Children will need to be placed in bubbles of ten, but there are no restrictions on how many bubbles a centre may have, as long as they can accommodate them safely.

Early learning services in New Zealand frustrated by lack of information

An early childhood provider and the Early Childhood Council (ECC) are calling for clarity on guidelines and regulations as childcare centres are set to open on Wednesday, 6 October 2021. Specifically, they’re looking for clear guidance regarding the management of the ten-children bubbles and regulations for teachers regarding mask-wearing, COVID-19 testing, and vaccinations.

Monday, 4 October 2021

The childcare sector looks at how to protect itself against unvaccinated parents

NSW, Victoria and the Northern Territory have mandated vaccines for childcare workers, and some childcare centres and providers have implemented vaccine policies for staff. The childcare sector is now examining the legal possibility of denying care to children of unvaccinated parents to protect workers and other children at the centre. Victoria has already indicated that once 70–80% of the population is fully vaccinated, only children of fully vaccinated parents will be eligible to attend childcare.

Friday, 1 October 2021

Some LGAs in Queensland enter stage restrictions

As of 4 pm AEST Thursday, 30 Sept 2021, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Logan City, Moreton Bay, Palm Island and Townsville (including Magnetic Island) entered stage 2 restrictions based on an increase in COVID-19 cases in the community. All staff in childcare must wear masks, but masks are not required for children while at care. Exceptions to this policy can be found here.

Thursday, 30th September 2021

Check with your childcare service about waiving the gap fee

Centres in COVID-19 hotspots may waive gap fees to recipients of Child Care Subsidy (CSS). If the service is in a Commonwealth declared hotspot for seven days or more, or you live in a declared hotspot, your childcare service may elect to waive gap fees when temporarily closed based on public health advice. Centres are not required to waive gap fees, so you should check with your childcare service.

COVID-19 restrictions eased slightly in Melbourne

As Victoria has reached its target of 80% first dose vaccinations, restrictions have been eased as of Wednesday 29 September 2021. Childcare centres remain open only to vulnerable children and children of authorised workers. In Melbourne, single parents have access to childcare, even if they are not authorised workers.

Guidance for shared custody and childcare in New Zealand
As of 29 September 2021, tamariki (children) are permitted to travel between Alert Level 3 and Alert Level 2 areas in shared parenting arrangements. Parents and caregivers are allowed to accompany tamariki (children) to and from the home of the other caregiver. Further information on shared custody and childcare restrictions by Alert Level available here.

Wednesday, 29th September 2021

Professional cleaning company emphasises importance of cleaning childcare centres

A professional cleaning company in Sydney, Australia Clean Group, recently hosted an online webinar on the importance of childcare cleaning. Proper cleaning helps keep children safe and healthy, but thorough sanitisation and disinfection can help combat the spread of COVID-19.

Some ACT parents voice concerns and confusion about what to do

Parents are glad the ACT is reopening, but doubts about sending their children to childcare abound. Parents wonder if childcare is safe with no vaccine available for children under twelve and no mandates that educators be vaccinated. 

Monday, 27th September 2021

New Zealand to stop contact tracing in childcare centres

Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan announced that contact tracing for close contacts in childcare is no longer necessary. For children under 13 years of age who have been in close contact and remain asymptomatic, it is not required for them to restrict their movements. However, any child exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 should quickly self-isolate, stop socialising and attending childcare and follow standard COVID-19 health guidelines.

Thursday, 23rd September 2021

Childcare staff in Victoria required to be vaccinated

On Wednesday, Education Minister James Merlino announced that all government and independent early childhood settings would be required to get their first COVID-19 shot by 18 October. Failing that, childcare staff must have an appointment for their shot within the following week. All staff will be required to get their second shot by 29 November, barring any legitimate medical exemptions. It was also announced that childcare staff would not be given access to priority booking as Victoria currently has “plenty of capacity” to administer shots. 

The announcement was welcomed by the Early Learning Association of Australia.

Wednesday, 22nd September 2021

Premier reveals back to school plan for Victoria 

Premier Daniel Andrews announced plans to have children return to school and to open early childhood education and childcare centres fully. Seventy per cent of the population is expected to be fully vaccinated around 26 October, and 80 per cent by 5 November. Once that happens, early childhood education and childcare will be fully open.

Children in NSW under 18 can form ‘friends bubble’

From Tuesday 21 September 2021, children 18 or younger in NSW can form a “friends bubble” in groups of three, with several conditions:

  • Each bubble is exclusive
  • Children can only form groups of three
  • Children cannot change the friends in their bubble
  • Children and their parents must all live within 5 km of each (or with the same LGA)
  • All households involved must be fully vaccinated
  • Adults dropping off children must not interact with other adults

Early childhood educators and care centre staff eligible for priority appointments in ACT

The ACT Education Directorate should have been in contact with all care centres and early childhood centres in the ACT regarding priority vaccinations. Educators and childcare staff can use their priority number to make an appointment. They can also call the ACT COVID-19 booking line on 02 5124 7700, between the hours of 7 am – 7 pm. It is not possible to make priority appointments online using MyDHR, but existing appointments can be moved forward with a phone call.

More information available here.

Lockdown in NSW and what it means for childcare services

Due to lockdowns in areas of NSW, childcare services in Cowra, Kempsey, Byron and Tweed Local Government Areas (LGAs) may be eligible to receive support from the Australian government. Childcare services are considered essential services and may remain open unless NSW Health has directed them to close. Further details about COVID-19 support are available on the DESE site.

Tuesday, 21st September 2021

Victoria’s New COVID-19 Guidelines, as of 11:59 pm Friday

In Melbourne and Ballarat, there is no change. Services, including early learning centres, kindergarten, childcare and family day care, will remain closed except for children of authorised workers and single parents and vulnerable children.

However, in Regional Victoria, all childcare services are now open, without restriction on who can attend.

Read more here.

‘We’re risking our lives’: Early childhood educators speak out about their fears for the future 

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us, particularly childcare workers whose centres have been forced to shut temporarily or operate at reduced capacity. Having to plan for on-site lessons as well as remote lessons has been a strain. Furthermore, some childcare workers feel the anxiety of putting themselves and their families at risk as childcare centres have been common COVID-19 exposure sites.

Studies suggest that young children rarely spread COVID-19 to other children

A report from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) examined transmission rates for children to children and children to adults/adults to children. The study reports that transmission from child to child rates are low and that the main transmission route is from adult to child. This indicates children are much more likely to get COVID-19 from an infected parent or childcare worker than another child at their centre.

Childcare centre makes COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all staff
In Western Australia, one childcare centre has given employees until the end of the month to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The centre has also stated that they will not hire any staff who are not fully vaccinated in the future.

Thursday, 16th September 2021

Attendance appears to be on the rebounds, even during lockdown

Despite battles with outbreaks of COVID-19 at early learning centres, attendance in Melbourne seems to be on the rise. Most centres are only open for vulnerable children and children of essential works, but the Community Child Care Association reports several centres are operating at about 50% capacity, perhaps driven by more eligible families sending their children to care as the lockdown drags on. The Australian Education Union estimates that sessional kindergarten occupancy is at about 25 to 30 per cent, but long daycare is believed to be well over 50%.

Findings from study on ECEC services during the COVID-19 pandemic

A study conducted on Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services in Victoria from May to August 2020 suggests that the pandemic highlighted perceived differences between ECEC and schools by both the public and the ECEC sector. It also reveals that the pandemic has created an opportunity for reflection and has drawn attention to the quality of care that ECEC educators regularly provide, as well as the importance of the ECEC sector.

Wednesday, 15th September 2021

Centres receive support payments to remain open

Just under 6,000 childcare services have received over $66 million in COVID-19 support payments in Victoria, NSW, and the ACT. Childcare services in Commonwealth-declared hotspots are eligible for payments 0f 25% of pre-lockdown revenue fortnightly, while Outside School Hours Care are eligible for payments of 40%.

How eased COVID-19 restrictions affect childcare in Victoria

Services that applied for business continuity payments for 6-19 September will receive their payment, provided they opted in before 9 September. This will be the last payment.

Beginning 10 September, services must now resume submitting absences as they normally would. Families are still eligible for Child Care Subsidy, provided their child is absent from care no more than 42 days per child per financial year. Additional absences may be possible.

Tuesday, 14th September 2021

Regional Victoria and Melbourne Covid Restrictions

In areas of Melbourne where restrictions are in place, childcare is still available to both children of single parents (as of 11:59 pm 9 September) and children of authorised workers.

In regional Victoria, only children of authorised workers and vulnerable children may attend childcare centres—if supervision at home is unavailable.

More info here.

Auckland to Switch to Alert Level 3 on Tuesday 21 September

Currently at Alert Level 4, Auckland will move to Alert Level 3 on Tuesday 21 September (pending government confirmation on Monday 20 September).

At Alert Level 3, some early learning centres can open to provide care for children whose parents must go to work. You may also include a caregiver in your household bubble, but that carer may not join another household bubble.

Monday, 13th September 2021

Eased COVID-19 guidelines for ECEC services

Parents and carers living in NSW are still being urged to keep children at home, if at all possible. 

Eased restrictions went into effect in some areas of regional NSW at 12:01 am on Saturday 11 September.

Children in LGAs under eased restrictions can return to early childhood education and care services with pre-stay-at-home rules in place. More information on the NSW Government website.

ECEC staff are reminded they must have received their 2nd dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 8 November 2021. Details to come in a revised Public Health Order.

NSW ECEC staff eligible for priority vaccinations, care still available to those in need

Early childcare staff are eligible for priority vaccinations at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney if they cannot book an earlier vaccination date with their GP.

Parents and carers in Greater Sydney and areas of NSW still under lockdown are urged to keep children at home whenever possible, though childcare and out-of-school-hours care will remain open for those that require it.

Parents and carers are reminded they must wear masks when picking up or dropping off children at care.

More details here.

Victoria lockdown extended

The lockdown in Victoria has been extended until at least 11:59 pm on Thursday 23 September. Residents reminded childcare is one of five accepted reasons for leaving home.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory?

The COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory unless you work in aged care. Not getting the vaccine will not affect your eligibility for childcare fee assistance, though everyone eligible for the vaccine is strongly encouraged to do so.

Friday, 10th September 2021

New COVID Guidelines for Melbourne 

At 11:59 pm on 9 September 2021, several changes to COVID guidelines went into effect statewide across Melbourne.

  • Early learning centres are now open to children of single parents (in addition to children of authorised workers and vulnerable children).
  • Childcare, family day care, early learning centres & kindergartens are now:
    • open for regional Victorian children
    • open in metropolitan Melbourne for children of
      • authorised workers
      • single parents
      • vulnerable children
  • Childcare workers moving between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria require twice-weekly PCR testing.

Thursday, 9th September 2021

Lockdown restrictions to ease in Victoria, Melbourne remains unchanged

In today’s update, schools will open for students in Prep – Grade 2 and Year 12, while some restaurants and cafes will be open with limits in regional Victoria. Childcare will be open to single parents along with essential workers. Other limitations on leaving home will be removed for Victoria, except Shepparton. Read more on revised COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria.

COVID updates and SMS notifications for NSW providers

The government is sending SMS notifications to childcare providers who are eligible for business continuity payments. Here are a few useful links: 

Book your appointment through the NSW Health website.

Wednesday, 8th September 2021

NSW COVID-19 guidelines for ECEC services

As of 19 September 2021, all ECEC staff living or working in one of the 12 LGAs of concern will be required to have the first dose of their vaccine to work. They must receive their second dose by 8 November 2021. All ECEC staff are eligible for Priority vaccination appointments. ECEC staff working outside of the LGA they reside in are reminded they will need to carry a permit from Service NSW proving they are an authorised worker. The same goes for workers that enter one of the 12 LGAs of concern for work. All NSW early childhood and care services are required to use Service NSW QR codes.

CCSA COVID Updates

Centres can share this Department of Education animation with families as a reminder of the pickup and dropoff protocol at childcare centres. Should a confirmed case of COVID be attached to your centre, you can follow these steps.

More information here.

How we work: Victoria COVIDSafe Settings for workplaces in Victoria

To determine if you are considered an authorised provider, worker or health service, consult this list. Information on permit requirements can be found here. See this page for the latest COVIDSafe Settings in early childhood education and care services.

Refer to this resource for more information.

Tuesday, 7th September 2021

Latest COVID updates for Victoria

Victoria is currently under lockdown, with the lockdown expected to continue to about 23 September. Due to the high rate of transmission among young people, early learning centres, kindergarten, childcare, and family day care remain closed, except to vulnerable children of authorised workers who cannot be supervised at home.

Parents can go here to obtain an Authorised provider and authorised worker permit.

COVID-19 Update – urgent information for service providers with staff in Sydney areas of Concern


The Emergency Services Super Sunday vaccination drive has expanded to include employees of DCJ-funded service providers on priority. As of September 5, employees are eligible for priority Pfizer vaccinations in the following areas: Bayside, Blacktown, Burwood, Camden, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool, Parramatta, Penrith and Strathfield.
Employees will have to provide proof of employment (authorised work letter, work ID, letter of employment, or copy of payslip) during their vaccination appointment.

Follow this link to book a priority appointment online now.

Monday, 6th September 2021

School-based staff in NSW to get priority access to COVID-19 vaccinations

After September 6th, staff in schools, early childhood, and universities can access the Homebush vaccination hub for Astra Zeneca. The Department of Education will be working closely with NSW Health to ensure these are available for more people in the education sector. Read more here.

Vaccination deadline extended for authorised workers from areas of concern

The deadline for authorised workers from Local Government Areas (LGAs) of concern to get vaccinated has been extended to Sept. 19, 2021, but only if they have booked an appointment for the COVID vaccine by Wednesday Sept. 8, 2021. Authorised workers will need to have at least one dose of the vaccine to work outside the LGA they reside in from September 20. Childcare workers can find information on priority booking here.

COVID-19 Restriction Checker

Children of essential workers or vulnerable children residing in the New South Wales border zone are permitted to attend childcare in Queensland, provided:
a) In the past 14 days, they have not been to a COVID hotspot outside the border zone.

b) Parents cannot reasonably arrange for childcare within the border zone.

Friday, 3rd September 2021

COVID-19 support for childcare services in the ACT 

The lockdown in ACT was extended until September 17. All services in the ACT are eligible for business continuity payments if conditions are met:

  • A reasonable expectation that attendance will be equal to or less than 50% of average sessions. 
  • Services must not receive business support from other COVID-19 related services. 
  • Services must waive gap fees for children not attending. 
  • Staff headcount must be maintained 
  • Services must not change fees for as long as business continuity payments are received.

 More information here.

Thursday, 2nd September 2021

Metropolitan Melbourne to remain in lockdown

Melbourne is set to remain in lockdown, which includes the City of Yarra until 70% of Victorians have had their first dose of the COVID vaccine. The lockdown is expected to continue until around Thursday, 23 September. Childcare schools remain closed, except for children of authorised workers, vulnerable children and children with special needs.

There may be some eased restrictions for Victorians by the end of September, but lockdown will continue for longer. You can access more information on Coronavirus rules in Victoria here.

Few New Zealand students back at school in alert level 3 As the top of New Zealand’s South Island moves to COVID-19 alert level 3, very few students are seen back at school. Schools reopened as families joined bubbles to restart childcare services for essential workers.

Wednesday, 1st September 2021

Siblings of children with disability may be eligible to attend childcare

Victoria is under statewide lockdown until Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. Children with disability may attend childcare if they cannot learn from home. Siblings of children with disabilities do not automatically qualify for automatic attendance, but if your child with a disability is learning from home, contact your childcare provider to see if they are eligible under the vulnerable child category.

Dependant children can visit residences if childcare is unavailable

The greater Sydney area is in lockdown until at least the end of Sept. 2021, while regional NSW will be under lockdown until at least 11:59 pm on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. Visitors to residences are permitted for childcare, and you are permitted to bring a dependent child with you when visiting another residence if you cannot arrange childcare. Nominated visitors can also bring children when visiting residences. From Sept. 6th, NSW will prioritise vaccination for all school staff, including early childcare staff.

Childcare an acceptable reason to leave home

The ACT is in lockdown until 11:59 Friday, Sept. 2021. You are permitted to leave your home to access childcare. Early childhood education care can only remain open for staff, vulnerable children and parents unable to work from home.

Acceptable to cross level 3 or 4 boundaries for childcare in New Zealand

On Tuesday, Oct. 31st, 49 cases of COVID-19 were reported in New Zealand, down from the previous day. Areas south of Auckland are set to shift to level 3 at 11:59. Northland is planning to make the same switch on Thursday.  Despite the lockdowns, it is still permitted to cross an alert level 3 or alert level 4 boundary to shared childcare arrangements or urgent care of a child.

Tuesday, 31st August 2021

Childcare centres in Cowper NSW can now waive gap fees

As the lockdown in NSW continues, a blanket rule by the federal government now allows childcare services in Cowper, NSW to waive gap fees. According to the Minister for Education and Youth, this move will take the financial pressure off families, along with additional allowable absence days announced recently. 

Fall in childcare centre attendance in NSW recorded at less than 10 per cent 

Despite an announcement from the federal government discouraging families from sending their children to care, attendance has fallen by less than 10 per cent. In contrast, strict attendance rules are applied in Victoria and ACT. NSW is currently suffering from the highest number of COVID-19 cases, and the premier is now expected to put stricter attendance rules in writing for NSW.

Vaccine mandate for childcare workers in NSW Childcare sector in NSW prepares for a vaccine mandate for childcare workers as 137 centres in NSW close as a result of the Delta wave. Cases among young children continue to rise, with almost half of the total 3,552 cases reported in children aged ten or under. Childcare associations are now pushing for a priority vaccine for educators and teachers.

Monday, 30 August 2021

Childcare centre added to list of COVID locations in New Zealand

As the lockdown in NSW continues, a blanket rule by the federal government now allows childcare services in Cowper, NSW to waive gap fees. According to the Minister for Education and Youth, this move will take the financial pressure off families, along with additional allowable absence days announced recently. 

Fall in childcare centre attendance in NSW recorded at less than 10 per cent 

Despite an announcement from the federal government discouraging families from sending their children to care, attendance has fallen by less than 10 per cent. In contrast, strict attendance rules are applied in Victoria and ACT. NSW is currently suffering from the highest number of COVID-19 cases, and the premier is now expected to put stricter attendance rules in writing for NSW.

Vaccine mandate for childcare workers in NSW Childcare sector in NSW prepares for a vaccine mandate for childcare workers as 137 centres in NSW close as a result of the Delta wave. Cases among young children continue to rise, with almost half of the total 3,552 cases reported in children aged ten or under. Childcare associations are now pushing for a priority vaccine for educators and teachers.

Monday, 30 August 2021

As the COVID-19 outbreak in New Zealand leads to a high number of cases every day, the premier, Jacinda Ardern, warns that tougher restrictions could be in place. An early childcare centre was added to the list of locations of interest since the Delta outbreak began in Auckland.

Friday, 27 August 2021

Lockdown in Australian Capital Territory

According to COVID-19 restrictions imposed in ACT, it is acceptable to leave home to access childcare, including early childhood education and Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) for parents that cannot work from home. Early childhood education and care facilities are permitted to remain open for staff, vulnerable children and children of parents unable to work from home. Read more here.

Thursday, 28 August 2021

Relief packages fail to meet full closure costs

Resources claim that the childcare relief package released by the federal government will only meet a portion of the fall in childcare revenue caused by COVID-19 restrictions. This is partly because the government agreed to waive gap fees for parents, which account for 38% of total revenue for childcare providers, leaving them at a disadvantage during a time with reduced attendance.
Parents in NSW have also been discouraged from sending their children to care. Read more about funding models here

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

New childcare relief packages released by federal government

Nearly 300 childcare and early learning centres in the ACT will have access to federal government support payments as part of a new package announced in response to the current lockdown. Childcare centres in Commonwealth-declared hotspots will be eligible for payments of 25% of their pre-lock down revenue. Before and after school care are eligible for 40% of pre-lockdown revenue. 

Education Minister Alan Tudge said that though most centres are still operating, additional support for three jurisdictions, NSW, ACT, and Victoria, is needed. Those areas are currently under specific orders not to send children to childcare (exceptions for children of essential workers). As such, attendance rates will plummet.

To be eligible, centres must maintain headcount before conditions came into place and must also waive fees for parents (i.e. parents are not required to pay for care if unable to send kids to care). Centres meeting these conditions will not only get these payments but will also CSS, even if children can’t attend.

Read more here.

NSW childcare workers required to receive vaccine by August 30th

Under a new rule, childcare staff in part of Sydney will be required to have at least one dose of the vaccine to go to work, starting August 30th. With 30 childcare centres currently considered exposure sites in Sydney, 115 services in NSW were closed due to a “health emergency”, according to ACECQA.
The vaccine mandates will apply to workers who live or work in the 12 hotspot local council areas. Parents are being urged to keep children home if at all possible. Read more here.

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Pfizer vaccines for 16 and 17-year-olds from Wednesday in Victoria

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews has announced that the Pfizer vaccines will be available to Victorians aged 16 and 17 years old from Wednesday, while 18-39-year-olds can get either AstraZeneca or Pfizer. Mr Andrews clarified that there were 1.2 million people in that age group who were not yet vaccinated and that the process is being fast-tracked with 450,000 Pfizer shots available. 

The news came after 50 new cases were reported in Victoria overnight. Read more here.
For information on eligibility and vaccination options, Victorians can visit  coronavirus.vic.gov.au.

Monday, 23 August 2021

Australian government’s support during  COVID-19 lockdowns

The Australian government has imposed several restrictions on communities and businesses to minimise the impact of COVID-19. You can learn more about state-specific restrictions using the COVID-19 restriction checker.

Service closures and health advice

Services must inform the government about a temporary closure during any period through the Provider Entry Point (PEP) or third-party software. An update needs to be provided to the relevant state or territory regulatory authority.

The overarching advice is to keep services open with necessary safety measures unless directed otherwise. An online infection control training module produced by the government helps services control and prevent COVID-19, along with hygiene best practices available on the Department of Health website. 

Government support measures

The government has also introduced several support measures for families and early learning services in areas with COVID-19 restrictions. These include: 

  1. Business continuity payments 
  • Centre-based care, Family Day Care (FDC) and In Home Care services will receive fortnightly payments equal to 25% of their pre-lockdown revenue, while Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) services will receive 40% of their pre-lockdown revenue. 
  • Conditions apply for centres claiming payments including a fall in attendance to below 50%, with no access to other types of business support.
  • Centres must also waive gap feed to families not attending, maintain staff levels and agree to a free freeze while they receive business continuity payments. 
  1. Gap fee waiving
  • From 13 August, centres can waive gap fees for families:
    • In Commonwealth-declared COVID-19 hotspots, if the hotspot runs for more than seven days, or if the state has limited access to early learning services. More information about your area can be found your state or territory government website.
    • Services can also waive gap fees if they were directed to close by a local authority, 
  • Services can choose to waive gap fees, either in full or partially, without any obligation from authorities, and will continue to receive CCS. Third-party software may be able to help in processing gap fee waivers. 
  1. Absences
  • Families can receive CCS when their child is absent from a care service that they normally attend for up to 42 days per child per financial year. 
  • If a Common-wealth COVID-19 hotspot extends for more than seven days, services can allow additional absences. 
  • The Childcare Subsidy System will automatically assess absences as required and services do not need to do anything to access them. 

Find out if you are in a Commonwealth-declared COVID-19 hotspot here.

  1. Disaster Payment
  1. Family support services

Families are eligible for  Additional Child Care Subsidy if they are facing financial limitations during COVID-19 restrictions. 

Monday, 13 August 2021

Kids Helpline reported a 200% spike in counselling contacts 

  • Young people may be at a higher risk of poor mental health following pandemic-induced lockdowns across the country. Children and young people are showing signs of concerns around suicidal and self-harm behaviour. 
  • 42 children aged five called the Kids Helpline during the first six months of 2021, for issues related to emotional wellbeing and grief. In comparison, only 14 children made such calls in the same period of last year. 
  • From June to July, 68 per cent more young people accessed the counselling service in NSW, along with 52% more in Victoria and 50% more in South Australia. 

More details in this article here.

Managing stress and anxiety during COVID-19

  • The Kids Helpline has introduced tools to help young people (kids, teens and young adults upto the age of 25) cope with the pandemic and understand why they must be feeling anxious during this time. 
  • It provides helpful resources and an interactive guide to assist them in understanding their current situation and taking steps to improve it. 

Call their 24/7 service at 1800 55 1800, email or chat in real-time every day and night.

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