Managing COVID cases
This webpage has everything that you need on it to manage a positive case. 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.
Due to recent removal of mandatory isolation requirements, the department has updated the reporting requirements on COVID-19 cases in ECEC services.
Services should now notify the department through the National Quality Agenda IT System (NQAITS) only if there is an outbreak of COVID in the service (5 or more cases within a 7-day period) or if the service is to be closed due to the impacts of COVID-19.
Managing COVID-19 in your service
The best way to deal with a positive case when it happens is to be as prepared as possible before it happens. Please ensure you do the following to be prepared:
Ensure daily attendance records for children are up to date – you will need this if you need to determine who was present at the time a positive case was at the service.
Ensure that phone numbers and email addresses for families are up to date as you will need to contact them all quickly if you have a positive.
Ensure you have read through the content on this page to understand the steps required of your service.
Does SARS CoV-2 transmit in ECE settings?
Transmission of SARS CoV-2 can occur in ECE settings, with early evidence suggesting a significant increase in transmission with the Omicron variant compared to the Delta variant. Strategies to limit spread, such as physical distancing and mask use are difficult to implement in ECE settings. Even if children don’t display symptoms, they can still transmit the virus, especially among household members.
How severe is COVID-19 in preschool children?
COVID-19 in preschool children is usually a mild illness. Approximately 20-30% of infected children don’t have symptoms and admission to hospital is rare (< 2%). Of the preschool children, babies and infants have a higher risk of hospitalisation, as they do with all respiratory viruses, but the duration of hospital stay for most of these children is usually short (1-3 days) with a quick recovery. COVID-19 cases generally need to isolate for 10 days if the symptoms have resolved by this time.
Is there a vaccine for preschool children?
There are no registered vaccines in Australia for children under 5 years of age. Clinical trials are underway for COVID-19 vaccine in children 6 months – 4 years.
What is the risk of transmission after the 7-day isolation period?
The majority of people who have been exposed to a person with COVID-19 who tests positive will do so within the first 7 days of exposure.
Because some children and their families will become infected in the second week following contact with a case, they can unintentionally transmit the virus to others. It is important that they continue to avoid high risk settings (health care, aged care, correctional facilities) where possible, and take extra precautions around vulnerable people including family members for a further 7 days after their isolation period ends.
It is no longer mandatory to self-isolate if you test positive to COVID-19, but it is strongly recommended you stay home and take steps to protect others.
NSW Health has developed guidance if you have tested positive to COVID-19 or been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Voluntary registration of your positive RAT with Service NSW can help you access health support and antiviral medicines if you are eligible.
There are simple steps we can all take to help slow the spread of COVID-19. These include:
Children and staff not coming to the service if they are sick
Staying 1.5 metres away from other people where possible and avoid crowding children together
Encouraging staff and adults to wear a mask when they cannot physically distance
Cleaning hands regularly with hand sanitiser or soap and running water for 20 seconds
All family members and staff getting a booster COVID-19 dose as soon as they are eligible.
All children aged 5-11 getting the COVID-19 vaccine
Find more information on COVID-19 vaccination in ECE services.
Managing positive cases
If you're notified of a positive case in your service, follow these steps:
- If this is part of an outbreak of COVID (5 cases or more within a 7-day period) and you:
- Determine infectious period of positive case (48 hours prior to positive COVID test or from the onset of symptoms, whichever is earlier).
- Determine children who were in attendance with the case during their infectious period.
- Send the parent or authorised emergency contact of each child in attendance the risk of COVID-19 letter (DOCX, 40KB) and refer them to the guidance information from NSW Health. While testing and isolation is no longer mandatory for exposures in ECE services, NSW Health has provided testing and isolation recommendations that should be considered by anyone exposed to COVID-19.
- Undertake a thorough clean of your service.
Notification of a COVID-19 outbreak or closure of service due to COVID-19
- Notify us of the positive case (under Regulation 175(2)(c)) within 7 days, however it is recommended that you lodge the notification as soon as possible.
- You do not need to submit a separate notification for additional positive cases if detected within 7 days of lodging the original notification.
- Keep a record of any additional cases detected within the 7 days and upload this as additional documentation to the original notification.
- Cases (if deemed an outbreak) detected after 7 days of lodging the original notification should be notified via separate notifications to ensure the notification timeframe of Regulation 175(2)(c) is being met.
To lodge an incident notification in NQAITS, follow the instructions in the how to guide (PDF, 543KB).
Who should be notified when there’s a COVID-19 case in my service?
If there is a positive case in your service, the service must ensure that a parent or an authorised emergency contact of each child being educated and cared for by the service is notified as soon as practicable. This is a requirement under the Education and Care Services National Regulations (Regulation 88(2)).
The risk of onward transmission of COVID-19 changes depending on time and location of exposure. The service is responsible for advising those in attendance that they have been exposed to a positive case in your service.
Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT)
All early childhood education and outside school hour care services have been sent supplies of RAT kits (for staff use) from the NSW Department of Education.
These may be used, for example, should a staff member be symptomatic or if there are cases arising at the service.
Beyond this supply, RATs and PCR tests are now widely available and accessible in the community.
All kits have been sent directly to the service where they are available for staff to access.
Staff are not required to confirm or report on the use of their tests to the service however, all positive results should be reported to Service NSW and to the service.
Services should also continue to follow COVID-safe guidelines to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of the community.
What is Rapid Antigen Testing?
Rapid antigen testing involves taking either a saliva sample or nasal swab that is placed into a chemical solution. The result displays within 10-15 minutes.
Our staff members are proactively using RAT kits each day, can we stop wearing masks?
Rapid Antigen testing is another tool to support the pandemic response however, it does not replace the need for vaccination, hand hygiene and maintaining physical distance from other people where possible.
NSW Health continues to recommend the wearing of masks indoors when you cannot socially distance, and this will now be a decision for services and educators to determine.
Your staff and visitors in ECE services should continue to be supported to wear a mask should they choose to do so.
A staff member/child is unwell, but has returned a negative RAT, can they return to the service?
Testing and isolation are no longer required in ECEC services. However, if a child or staff member is unwell, they should not attend the service.
For children or staff with seasonal allergic rhinitis or other conditions that have similar symptoms to COVID-19, an initial negative COVID-19 test is recommended before returning to ECE.
Following this, only if the person's symptoms change from their usual symptoms, then repeat COVID-19 testing should be performed.
Information about the use of the kits
Rapid Antigen testing flashcards (PDF, 228KB)
After a COVID outbreak at your service, you will need to undertake a thorough clean and disinfection of all areas.
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 positive case.
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.
Resources for services
For more information
Contact NSW Health
Contact your local Public Health Unit 1300 066 055.
View the map of NSW local health district to find your local health district.
Contact the NSW Department of Education's Information and Enquiries line on 1800 619 113 if you required further advice. The line is available Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.