Voluntary COVID-19 testing will be expanded to include children aged between three and five years of age, the Victorian Government announced Yesterday, with free rapid antigen tests (RATs) to be made available to those attending early childhood education and care (ECEC) in the coming weeks.
The free at-home RATs will be given to young learners to support them and their families minimise transmission and help keep early childhood education and care services open through participation in the twice weekly testing regime.
Services will receive individual advice via email about when their tests will arrive. Sessional kindergartens will receive their deliveries over the next two weeks, followed by other early childhood services which include long day care, family day care and occasional care.
Children attending outside school hours care (OSHC) are already receiving kits from their enrolled school.
“This investment will support families with children in early childhood services who may have been struggling to access RATs due to cost barriers or availability,” said Kim Little, Deputy Secretary Early Childhood Education, Department of Education and Training.
“Families will be encouraged to participate and will be provided with guidance shortly on how to administer tests to young children. As with school students this is voluntary, and services must not make participation in rapid antigen testing a condition of attending the service.”
Nasal testing can be conducted on children aged between three and five years of age in a home environment, with results available within 30 minutes. Services are not required to seek or record the result of RATs, but any parents/carers of children who test positive must tell their service, isolate and report their result to the Department of Health via the COVID-19 Positive Rapid Antigen Test Self-Reporting Form online or by contacting the call center on 1800 675 398.
This expansion is in addition to 943,000 RATs being delivered to staff working in early childhood services across February.
Information for services on the delivery and use of the kits is available through the link shown, along with information for parents and carers offering tips for administering RATson younger children.
Along with the testing announcement, the Victorian Government has implemented a new streamlined contact management process for notifying potential contacts as groups or cohorts at an ECEC service, which is now in effect.
- Positive cases are required to notify their ECEC service if they have been onsite 48 hours prior to symptom onset, or test collection date for asymptomatic cases.
- ECEC provider or nominated supervisor must submit a notification through National Quality Agenda IT System (NQAITS) as soon as they become aware that a child, parent, contractor, or worker has been onsite during their infectious period.
- ECECs must notify the ECEC community through a daily email (where applicable) when a child or staff member has (or multiple children or staff members have) returned a positive COVID-19 test result and had attended the service. The letter should include dates of attendance and affected age group room/program room.
The notification can be provided to only the affected age group room/program room or to the whole service.
- The letter will ask families and staff to monitor for symptoms and if symptomatic test and if positive isolate for 7 days.
- Children and staff who may have been exposed at the service are not required to test if not symptomatic (although they may choose to).
- Children and staff who are not symptomatic and do not have a positive test are not required to isolate or stay away from the service – they can continue to attend. The exception to this is family day care – these are considered household-like settings, and the household close contact isolation and testing rules apply.
Further details and the communication template are available at Managing a case of COVID-19 in early childhood education and care services.
The Department’s Early Childhood COVID-19 Advice Line is also available weekdays from 8.30am to 5pm on 1800 338 663. Those who require an interpreter should call 131 450 first.