Health and hygiene

Advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee

While all Victorians are urged to follow the latest coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, families can leave their homes to take their children to and from an early childhood service.

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has advised that early childhood services should implement a number of risk mitigation measures. These include:

  • making sure all unwell staff, children and visitors remain at home
  • reduce mixing of children by separating cohorts – including the staggering of meal and play times
  • enhanced personal hygiene for children, staff and parent/carer(s) – follow appropriate cough etiquette and make sure liquid soap and running water, or alcohol-based hand sanitiser is available at the entrance of the facility and throughout.
  • excursions other than to local parks should be discouraged
  • influenza vaccination for children, staff and parent/carer(s) - the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has advised that the influenza vaccinations should be undertaken wherever possible.

In addition, there should be full adherence to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) childcare cleaning guidelines, including:

  • clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces at least daily (for example, play gyms, tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, sinks)
  • wash and launder play items and toys including washable plush toys as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely
  • excursions other than to local parks should be discouraged, public playground equipment should not be used

Alternative care arrangements should be considered for children who are in the high-risk category for coronavirus (COVID-19). The AHPPC recommends parents seek medical advice for these children.

The AHPPC has also advised that the following visitors and staff should not be permitted entry into an early childhood service:

  • those who have returned from overseas in the last 14 days
  • those who have been in contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the last 14 days
  • those with fever or symptoms of acute respiratory infection – for example, a cough, sore throat or shortness of breath.

Detailed advice about physical distancing and transmission reduction

We have worked with DHHS to develop health and safety detailed advice in line with the AHPPC's risk mitigation guidelines.

Key information includes:

  • All staff, children and parent/carer(s) who are unwell must remain at home.
  • Hand hygiene, cough etiquette and environmental cleaning and disinfection are the most effective way to reduce transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Parent/carer(s) of children with complex medical needs should seek medical advice from their child's medical practitioner to support risk assessment and informed decision making regarding the suitability of continuing education and care at this time.
  • Staff, children and parent/carer(s) should have the influenza vaccination, wherever possible.
  • The greatest risk of transmission in the early childhood environment is between adults.

Additional support for cleaning

In Term 2 cleaning grants were provided to all early childhood education and care services (ECEC) delivering a funded kindergarten program.

In Term 3, a second round of grants will also be provided to ECEC services delivering a funded kindergarten program, including:

  • $900 for services with less than 50 enrolments
  • $1500 for services with 50 or more enrolments.

Services can use the funding for enhanced coronavirus (COVID-19) cleaning and hygiene requirements in their kindergarten programs.

The payments can be used for additional hygiene products such as hand sanitiser and soap. It cannot be used to pay for normal staffing or cleaning costs, or for buying normal levels of hygiene supplies.

Payments will be made directly to all service providers delivering a funded kindergarten program. No application is required.

Unwell children and staff

It's important to make sure unwell children and staff remain at home until their symptoms resolve and seek medical assistance as required.

Services should send unwell children or staff home in accordance with Preventing infectious diseases in early childhood education and care services.

Encourage parent/carer(s) to keep children home if they are displaying any of the following symptoms:

  • fever
  • chills or sweats
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • shortness of breath
  • runny nose
  • loss of sense of smell or taste.

In certain circumstances headache, muscle soreness, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea may also be considered.

If a staff member or child is displaying any of the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), however mild, they should get tested. Seek advice from a healthcare professional who can advise on next steps. You can phone the coronavirus (COVID-19) hotline on 1800 675 398 for help and advice. Visit the DHHS website for more information.

A medical certificate is not required for your child to return to our setting after a period of illness, however children should not return until they no longer have symptoms.

If a child, student or staff member is or has had contact with a confirmed case

Contact DHHS on 1300 651 160 to discuss what to do next if you think a child, student or staff member:

  • has a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • is in close contact with someone with a confirmed case.

DHHS defines 'close contact' as someone who has either:

  • had at least 15 minutes of face-to-face contact with someone with a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • shared a closed space for more than two hours with someone with a confirmed case.

Unless you have a child, student or staff member in one of the two above categories, you do not need to take further action.

You should continue to encourage good hygiene practices as this is the most effective way of minimising the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Reporting a confirmed case

You must report a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) involving a child attending your service to the Victorian Regulatory Authority. This is required by the National Law and Regulations governing all early childhood education and care services.

For reporting requirements:

Maintaining good health hygiene at early childhood education services

Remind your staff, families and children that everyone can protect against infections by practising good hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene. Here are some tips that everyone at your service can follow:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing and sneezing, or cough into your elbow.
  • Dispose of the tissue in a bin and then wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
  • Wash your hands often, after using the toilet and before eating.

Health promotion materials are available to distribute and promote to your staff, children and families, see:

You can also access the NHMRC childcare cleaning guidelines

Testing for coronavirus (COVID-19)

For information about where you can get tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) visit: Getting tested for coronavirus (COVID-19)

Food and supplies of high demand items

The Victorian Government is working closely with retailers to help provide essential supplies such as food, nappies and sanitiser to early learning services.

We're aware that there is high demand for hygiene supplies. Suppliers have been asked to prioritise early childhood services, noting health services and residential care facilities are the top priorities.

Both Woolworths and Coles have confirmed that education providers will be considered a priority and eligible to register for their respective online ordering service. Availability and lead time on arrival of supplies will vary. Similar services are likely to be available from other retail stores.

We know that some larger ECEC providers have also successfully sourced supplies from wholesale providers who ordinarily service the hospitality industry. This information is being shared with peak bodies.

If a lack of essential supplies is threatening the continued operation of your service in accordance with health guidance, contact the DET advice line on 1800 338 663.

First aid requirements

Services are reminded that the first aid requirement can be met by one staff member who holds a current approved first aid qualification, anaphylaxis management training and emergency asthma management training. The staff member must be in attendance and immediately available in an emergency.

Services should in the first instance consider adjusting the staff roster to make sure one rostered staff member is suitably first aid qualified.

Services and educators are encouraged to pursue available online options to complete first aid refresher training.

  • The Commonwealth Government's My Skills website lists a range of first aid refresher training providers who are offering online options.
  • The Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) also provides further information about first aid training on their website.

If first aid qualification requirements cannot be met, you may apply for a temporary waiver if staff have been unable to complete first aid refresher training due to coronavirus (COVID-19) as outlined above.

Contact the Quality Assessment and Regulation Division (QARD) advice line on 1300 307 415 for more about applying for waivers or first aid requirements.

Mental health and wellbeing, supporting each other

While continuing to educate and care for children, and being a source of support for their families, it is important to look out for one another and stay connected.

The following organisations give advice on looking after your mental health at this time: