Managing COVID cases
For general advice, guidance and information on COVID-19 for early childhood education and care services, please access the COVID-19 guidelines for ECEC services.
If you are notified of a confirmed case either in or linked to your service, you must follow the response steps in each drop-down box below:
Contact the NSW Department of Education's Information and Enquiries line on 1800 619 113 to advise details of the confirmed case and for further advice. The line is available Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.
If you need to notify the department outside of business hours, you can contact us on 0477 388 715. Alternatively, you can advise us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ensure you include your service name and best contact number.
You may be directed to temporarily close your service. Your service must:
- comply with this direction
- notify us by submitting a 101 Notification of Incident - closure or reduction in number of children attending the service through the National Quality Agenda IT System (NQA ITS).
You must notify us within 24 hours of closure however, we ask that you notify us as soon as possible.
Community and Mobile preschools that receive Start Strong funding and are closed for a period of time, should also notify the NSW Department of Education's funding team at email@example.com.
When directed to close, you will need to communicate with families that there will be a temporary closure while awaiting advice on contact tracing by NSW Health.
Anyone who has been in attendance at the service may be deemed a close contact and should isolate while awaiting health advice.
The department has a template letter you can use to inform families and educators at your service.
The NSW Department of Education can provide assistance through written confirmation of required closure dates.
Should you require this support, to continue to meet funding requirements, you can contact the Department's Information and Enquiries team on 1800 619 113.
If your service is directed by NSW Health or NSW Department of Education to close or reduce numbers, you will need to complete the service closure notification via NQA ITS.
If you are unable to access NQA ITS to submit the notification, contact us by:
- calling 1800 619 113
- emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
NSW Health will undertake an interview with the person who has tested positive to determine the infectious period and potential exposure dates and to identify confirmed close contacts.
You will be requested by either NSW Health or NSW Department of Education to complete and return a NSW Health contact spreadsheet.
The spreadsheet must record all children, staff and visitors at the service during the last week of attendance of the person who has tested positive to COVID-19.
The details you provide will be shared with the NSW Health Close Contact Tracing Team, to commence classification of contacts.
NSW Health will subsequently notify close contacts of their quarantine, testing and release dates.
While close contacts may receive a text message in relation to secondary close contacts applying to work colleagues, Health has determined that this only applies in very specific circumstances and does not apply in an ECE work setting. The only exception to this would be where educators or children reside together, carpool together, or have spent significant time together outside of the work context.
NSW Health will use the information collected to support contact tracing and direct messaging to close contacts once exposure dates are determined. NSW Health will also reference QR check-ins for the exposure period.
Once exposure dates are determined by NSW Health, they will send direct messages to individuals, informing them of the specific isolation requirements. This will also include information in relation to the closest testing clinics.
Information about isolation requirements is available on the NSW Health website and can be shared with families.
Your service will need to undertake a thorough clean and disinfection of all areas which may have been contaminated. NSW Health will advise you on how to do this, as well as any other steps you need to take.
- Your usual cleaning staff can do the cleaning.
- NSW Health does not require you to use specialised cleaning companies however, you can if you want to.
- NSW Health does not endorse or recommend any particular cleaning companies.
- There is no certification process endorsed by the NSW Government for cleaning companies undertaking cleaning and disinfection services after a COVID-19 outbreak.
- You are not required to provide a certificate of cleaning completion.
The following resources are available for ECE services to follow:
- NSW Government cleaning guidance for businesses with linked COVID-19 cases.
- Safe Work Australia website has information about routine cleaning, and cleaning and disinfection following a case or suspected case of COVID-19 in a non-healthcare workplace.
- The Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC)has advice on its website.
- Staying Healthy - Preventing Infectious Diseases in Early Childhood Education and Care Services
Re-opening your service
In considering when to re-open your service following closure due to a positive case, you must ensure the operation of your service complies with education and care laws and regulations, including ratio requirements. This means that many services will be unable to re-open for the full 14 days since last exposure.
Educators and children who have been deemed CLOSE contacts must not return to the service until they have completed their isolation period.
Rapid Antigen Home Testing for OSHC services
On 25 November 2021, the COVID-19 and Economic Recovery Committee agreed to minimise disruption in school and OSHC settings, through the use of rapid antigen home testing (RAHT) when there are positive COVID-19 cases in these settings. The changes will be in place from Monday 29 November and can apply to both children and staff where a positive case or close contact is identified in the school or service.
Use of RAHT is not mandatory and is a service-based decision. The department has included additional details and frequently asked questions to help you make an informed decision about implementation of RAHT in your service environment, should there be a positive case.
A RAHT option will be available to children and staff who have been classified as close contacts at school or in OSHC to get them back to education and care immediately following a negative PCR and on the basis they do RAHT for 7 consecutive days before attending school and OSHC each day.
This applies to close contacts who have had exposure to a COVID-19 positive case at school, or at an onsite OSHC. If the OSHC is located offsite from a school location, they will be assessed on a case-by-case basis for use of RAHT by NSW Health. Close contacts from community exposures are not eligible for RAHT.
These changes do not change the requirement for vaccination for all early childhood education and care service staff and services should continue to follow COVID-safe guidelines to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of the community.
Implications for Close Contacts when considering Rapid Antigen Home Testing
NSW Health has developed a range of information for close contacts, including translations into different languages. The information that follows will enable services to understand the difference in isolation from the current situation (not using RAHT) to the new settings of using RAHT.
The use of RAHT does not amend the NSW Health advice for Close Contact isolation requirements outside the attendance at the education and care service. This means that even if using RAHT you cannot:
- use any public places (e.g. shops, parts, beaches)
- use public transport
- have any visitors in your home unless they are providing healthcare, emergency maintenance or emergency services
- attend playdates, sports lessons, family gatherings, visits to libraries, playgrounds
- send your child to family or friends for care
|Opt in to RAHT||Not using RAHT|
1. PCR (nose and throat swab) test conducted at a clinic immediately on notification of being a close contact
2. If the PCR test is negative, the RAHT kits should then be used each day for 7 days
3. Return to school/service provided their RAHT result for that day is negative, but continue to isolate outside of school/service
4. Should the person return a positive RAHT result at any stage, they can no longer attend the school or service, get a PCR test and isolate at home
5. Once RAHT kits have been used for 7 consecutive days with a negative result, the isolation period will end
6. If a parent/carer following the RAHT pathway does not provide the result of a negative test each day, the student must revert to isolation for the 14-day period following their last contact with the positive case and undertake learning from home, supported by the school
1. PCR (nose and throat swab) test conducted at a clinic immediately on notification of being a close contact
2. PCR (nose and throat swab) test conducted at a clinic immediately, and again on day 6
3. Close contacts must isolate for 7 days after testing negative on Day 6, but cannot attend early childhood education and care services for 14 days as they are deemed high risk settings
4. Whilst you can leave self-isolation after 7 days if your test on day 6 is negative, you feel well and you have had no further contact with a COVID-19 positive person, this does not include attending ECEC services
5. Get tested again on day 12
The service should communicate the use of Rapid Antigen Home Testing to all families and staff.
The services will need to ensure they can meet their obligations under the Education and Care Services National Law and Regulations while adhering to service specific COVID safe policies, plans and procedures when making a decision to operate after a confirmed COVID positive case.
What is Rapid Antigen Home Testing?
Rapid antigen home testing involves taking either a saliva sample or nasal swab that is placed into a chemical solution. The result displays within 10 minutes.
Rapid Antigen Home Testing can be used by OSHC staff and children attending OSHC to reduce the disruption positive COVID-19 cases have on services.
What are the benefits of Rapid Antigen Home Testing?
Rapid Antigen Home Testing will enable educators and children to mitigate the amount of time close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case may be unable to attend services for face-to-face education and care. This may also reduce pressures on staffing considerations and time away from work for educators.
Rapid antigen home testing is another tool to support the pandemic response but does not replace the need for vaccination, mask-wearing in indoor environments, hand hygiene and distancing rules that need to remain in place.
If staff or children are unwell, they should not come to OSHC services and will need to continue to isolate if instructed to by NSW Health, regardless of their participation in the RAHT program.
What is the difference between rapid antigen home tests and the standard PCR (nose and throat swab) test that you get at a clinic?
Rapid antigen home testing is a screening tool to help detect COVID-19 in people who do not have symptoms. If the rapid antigen test indicates a positive result, it means you may have COVID-19 but you must immediately get a standard PCR (nose and throat swab) test to confirm the result at a testing clinic and follow NSW Health advice.
If at any time you have any symptoms of being unwell, you must get a PCR test at a clinic, you cannot rely on a rapid antigen home test.
How would services access supplies?
Children who are deemed close contacts will receive RAHT kits from their school. If they attend a service that is not located on their school site, but are deemed a close contact following their OSHC attendance (i.e., a positive case not from their school attended OSHC), then they will still get their kit from the school they attend.
Services on school sites will need to work with their principal to organise supplies for staff where they are identified as close contacts following a positive case.
For services located off school sites, the department is currently working on processes to support access to kits for staff. We will keep you informed about updates and will continue to work closely with impacted services.
At the current time, the department is not supplying RAHT tests for staff where they are not identified as close contacts, or for siblings or other household members of children who are close contacts.
How would a service check RAHT results of children from parents and carers?
Before a child returns to class each day, a negative RAHT result must be submitted to the school through the CareStart app by the parent/carer. This involves uploading a photograph of the test result. A service participating in RAHT will need to implement their own process to sight and log a negative result when the child is signed into before care. This may include adding a column to the sign in sheet where an educator verifies the negative result by viewing the photograph when the child is signed into the service. When children attend after school care, you will need to either get verification from the school or from the parent/carer through an agreed process with them.
This will require service decisions as to the:
- allocation of the most appropriate staff member/s to manage the RAHT process
- procedures for managing the arrival of students undertaking RAHT so that their test status is confirmed before they proceed to join the larger student population
- procedures for managing the arrival of children where a test result is not made available
If a child has been identified as a close contact and is currently isolating, can they attend from 29 Nov?
Any staff or children who have been identified as close contacts as a result of exposure on a school site and are currently isolating can return to school and OSHC from Monday 29 November and begin RAHT testing, as long as they have already had a negative PCR test.
What does this mean for siblings of close contacts? Will they be included in RAHT programs?
NSW Health have provided advice regarding secondary close contacts, this includes siblings and other family members:
· If not fully vaccinated, they will need to self-isolate for their full isolation period prior to participation in RAHT.
· If fully vaccinated, they will not need to self-isolate, but they must not attend high-risk settings (health care, aged care, disability care, early childhood centres, primary schools and correctional facilities) during the close contact’s isolation period prior to participation in RAHT.
· If other members of the household cannot self-isolate away from the carer or the person who is a close contact (e.g. a single parent household with young children), all need to follow the advice above depending on individual vaccination status.
At the current time, the department is not supplying RAHT tests for siblings or other household members.
For more information
Download the management of confirmed cases flowchart (PDF, 76KB)
The NSW Department of Education has established a team to support positive COVID cases in Early Childhood. Please contact this team on 1800 619 113 if you have any questions or require clarification specific to your service re-opening.