The international novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is evolving rapidly, with local transmission reported in NSW.

Children are at the same risk of contracting COVID-19 as adults. Children are more likely to have a milder illness, and some may not have any symptoms.

Children can spread a range of respiratory infections, even with only mild symptoms, so we recommend that early childhood education and care services have established plans in place in the event of service-wide infection outbreaks or broader community epidemics. 

Measures to prevent and prepare your service for an outbreak of COVID‑19 or other respiratory illness (e.g. influenza)

  • Anyone (staff and children) who is sick with influenza-like symptoms, even with mild symptoms, should not attend early childhood education and care facilities. 
  • If a child or staff member becomes ill while they are at the service, they should be sent home as soon as possible. While awaiting collection by their carer, ideally, the symptomatic child should be cared for in an area that is separated from other children at the service. This is to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.
  • Enhance hygiene practices for staff, children and visitors. Washing hands frequently is the single most effective way to reduce the spread of germs that cause respiratory disease. Alcohol-based hand gel is a suitable alternative if used and stored safely around children
  • Develop a process to rapidly communicate with staff (including casual workers), visitors, families and your local public health unit.
  • Ensure robust infection control and cleaning and routine environmental cleaning procedures are in place. In response to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 the service should follow existing protocols for cleaning and disinfection for outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness/gastroenteritis outbreaks.
  • Develop strategies (where possible) to limit movement of children staff and families between groups at the service.
  • Cancel any planned activities outside of the service, such as visits to residential aged care facilities and other large gatherings.
  • Promote the annual influenza vaccine for staff, children and their families.
  • Face masks are not recommended for the general population. Only people with respiratory symptoms in isolation and health care workers caring for people with respiratory symptoms should wear a mask.

Specific prevention advice for COVID-19 related to overseas travellers

All staff and children who have recently travelled overseas must stay isolated at home for 14 days after they return. If they develop flu-like symptoms, they should call their doctor to arrange testing or go directly to a COVID-19 clinic or emergency department.

When to contact your local public health unit

Contact your public health unit immediately on 1300 066 055 if you are notified that a child or staff member at your service has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Further information

Current as at: Monday 16 March 2020
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW