COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

31 August 2021

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

As the situation is changeable, we have created frequently asked questions (FAQ) to address common concerns. We will update this page as new information becomes available.

How can families contact ECMS if they are concerned about COVID-19?

We have set up a dedicated phone number and email for your COVID-19 questions:

  • 1300 344 969 will be updated daily with any up-to-date or closure information. It will also give you an option to speak to an ECMS Crisis Management Team member. This line is available from 9am to 5pm. 
  • You can also email Covid-19@ecms.org.au to reach an ECMS Crisis Management Team member.

How do I talk to my child about COVID-19 (coronavirus)?

We have created an article to help guide you in how you can talk to your child about the coronavirus. This link provides a story you can download and read with your child to familiarise them with the use of face masks. 

Who can access ECMS services?

Effective 17 August 2021, education and care services are only available to children of authorised workers and those experiencing vulnerability.

What is an authorised worker?

A person who works in one of the defined authorised industries.

What does it mean for children experiencing vulnerability?

Children in out-of-home care or known to child protection, medically/socially vulnerable children, and Koorie children. Medically/socially vulnerable children could include, for example, children eligible for the Victorian Kindergarten Inclusion Support Program or the Commonwealth Inclusion Support Program; children with complex medical needs who are not at elevated risk from COVID-19; and children from a refugee or non-English speaking background.

Do both parents/carers need to be authorised workers?

No, only one parent/carer must be an authorised worker for their child to attend on the child's booked days. A child in a two-parent/carer family or a one-parent/carer family may access the service where one parent is an authorised worker (working onsite or from home), and there is no appropriate alternative care available.

I am an authorised worker, but there is another adult at home. Can my child still attend the service?

If there is another adult in the household, authorised workers can still access onsite childcare or kindergarten on the child's booked days if the other adult cannot supervise the child/ren (including work or personal circumstances such as illness or disability).

Whose responsibility is it to have a valid authorised worker permit?

It is the responsibility of the parent/carer and their employer to have a valid authorised worker permit. It is the responsibility of the parent/carer to comply with the requirement that they have no appropriate alternative care available at home. 

The responsibility of the service is to sight the authorised worker permit to ensure the fields are filled in and signed and that the days of work (at home or the workplace) align with their child’s booked days. We will file the authorised worker permit with the child's enrolment forms.

I am a shift worker. Can I bring my child during the hours I am not working?

Yes, an authorised worker who is required to work shift work (e.g., overnight shift at a hospital) can send a child to a service outside their working hours so they can rest.

I already had an Authorised Worker Permit before 22 August. Do I need a new one?

If a parent/carer is an authorised worker who was issued a permit in 2021 before Sunday 22 August 11:59 pm to go to their work premises, they can use that Permit as proof for their child to attend the service (or the current authorised worker permit form).

Eligible authorised workers who do not have a permit issued before Sunday 22 August 11:59 pm will need to use the current authorised worker permit form for their child to attend the service.

Do all Authorised Workers need permits?

In some circumstances, a parent/carer does not need an Authorised Worker Permit. This includes law enforcement, emergency services, or health care workers who carry employer-issued photographic identification. An employer-issued photographic identification, which clearly identifies the employer, can be used as evidence of their authorised worker status. For more information, view the authorised worker permits exemptions list

My child has an existing arrangement where they attend two services. Can I still bring my child to an ECMS service?

If a family has existing arrangements where children attend more than one early childhood service (including an ECMS service), such as a kindergarten and a childcare service. In that case, this arrangement may continue for children of Authorised Workers and vulnerable children.

How will you support my child at home?

Each of our services will deliver a learning from home program tailored to their community's needs. We believe that our educators are best placed to know what your family and children want and need during this time, and we will continue to take an individualised approach to their learning from home program. If they haven't done so already, your educators will contact you shortly to share their learning from home program with you. 

When do I have to self-isolate?

If a person is unsure what to do unless they can prove otherwise, the hardest and strictest rules apply, which typically means they will need to self-isolate for 14 days.

ECMS cannot advise on individual situations. Staff and families need to contact the Department of Health or Coronavirus Hotline.

Families can only return to the service once they receive in writing clearance from the Department of Health. The family member must send the written notification to their Nominated Supervisor/Centre Director

In line with Federal and State government advice, the following quarantine requirements are in place at all our centres for children, families and staff. You must self-isolate for 14 days if:

  • You are diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You have been in close contact with a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19. In the event of multiple positive contacts in the household, the 14 days starts from when the last person diagnosed gets clearance from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
  • You have returned from any overseas country.
  • You have returned from a state or territory where self-isolation border measures are in place.
  • You have participated in COVID-19 testing (whether you have symptoms or not) until the results prove negative.

What happens if I have visited an Exposure site?

The Victorian Government frequently updates the public exposure sites where a positive case has visited or acquired their infection.  All families are required to monitor this site at Victorian Public Exposures Sites frequently. 

Tier 1 site

Anyone who has visited a Tier 1 exposure site during the times listed must immediately isolate, get a COVID-19 test, and quarantine for 14 days from the date of exposure. You should also contact the Department of Health on 1300 651 160.

Tier 2 site

Anyone who has visited a Tier 2 exposure site during times listed should urgently get a COVID-19 test and isolate until they receive a negative result. You should also contact the Department of Health on 1300 651 160. Continue to monitor for symptoms, get tested again if symptoms appear.

Tier 3 site

Anyone who has visited a Tier 3 exposure site during the times listed should monitor for symptoms. If symptoms develop, immediately get a COVID-19 test and isolate until you receive a negative result.

Why are schools and Early Learning centres not listed here?

These are listed on the Department of Education website. You can find a list of early childhood services, schools, bus routes, and TAFEs currently not operating because of COVID-19 here.

What is a close contact?

A close contact is someone who has been identified by the Department of Health contract tracers as having spent time with someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19). There are two types of close contacts:

  • Primary close contact
  • Secondary close contact

What is a primary close contact?

  • Someone who has had face-to-face contact or spent time in a closed space with someone who has COVID-19 while they were infectious.
  • Someone who has been in an outbreak or other setting where there is a higher risk of transmission of COVID-19.

What is a secondary close contact?

Someone who has had face-to-face contact with a primary close contact at least 24 hours after they (primary close contact) has been exposed to COVID-19.

Clearance to return to an ECMS service

If you or a household member has been required to test and/or self-isolate in response to a positive case or being present at a tier exposure site, you are required to complete all compulsory directions from the Department of Health.

ECMS will request families to provide written evidence of clearance from self-isolation from the Department of Health before children and their families are able to enter the service.

How are you encouraging social distancing for parents, children and staff?

In line with Federal Government requirements, we are encouraging the use of social distancing within our centres.  In line with government restrictions, there may be limits to the number and types of visitors at services.  A density limit of one person per four square metres is applied to all common areas within our services.  Density limits do not apply in children’s rooms; however, adults are still required to socially distance where possible.

Masks are mandatory in Victoria for all adults and children over the age of 12 years whilst in our services unless an exemption applies.  Please note that educators do not have to wear a mask when caring and educating for children but those who wish to do so can.

How are you encouraging social distancing and hygiene within the learning environments?

To support and facilitate social distancing in our centres, we are:

  • Encouraging parents/guardians and children to use alcohol-based hand sanitiser provided when arriving at the service.
  • Staff and children to wash their hands at regular intervals throughout the day and following certain activities, in addition to providing discussions, demonstrations and modelling of these behaviours.
  • Gloves to be worn by staff in undertaking designated activities such as cleaning any bodily fluids or children's faces, assisting a child going to the toilet or using spray bottles with chemicals.
  • Setting up activities that encourage children to participate with their peers in the safest way, for example, experiences set at each end of a table.
  • Encouraging the use of a full indoor/outdoor space for the whole session (ratio-dependent). 
  • Reducing the amount of sensory activities (such as play dough) within the session to prevent cross-contamination.

What additional measures have you implemented to ensure the health and safety of educators and children?

We have implemented further health and safety measures across our services, many of which the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee endorses. These include:

  • More regular cleaning of surfaces and resources, at least twice daily, as well as routine cleaning of toys and resources.
  • Rearranging classrooms – to ensure physical distancing is achievable.
  • We ask families who work as frontline health workers or in other emergency services to wear a change of clothes when collecting their child after completing their shift.

We have a detailed and robust COVID Safe plan in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is frequently updated in line with Government advice.

Are you taking each child’s temperature on arrival at the centre?

No, effective 17/11/20 routine temperature checks for children are no longer required. Your child’s temperature may be checked if educators are concerned that they are unwell.  You will be contacted if your child’s temperature is elevated or if they are displaying other symptoms of being unwell and will be required to collect them from the service.

Why are some staff wearing face masks all the time and others occasionally?

It is not mandatory for teachers and educators to wear a face mask while working with children. However, any staff who wishes to wear a face mask whilst working, can.

Further information on masks can be obtained here.

Do I have to wear a face mask/covering to enter the service?

Yes. Masks are mandatory in indoor and outdoor settings in Victoria for all adults and children over 12 years, unless an exemption applies. Please speak to your Nominated supervisor prior to your arrival if an exemption applies.

How else can I keep the community safe?

  • Frequently wash your hands using soap and water and/or alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
  • When you cough and sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with your elbow or tissue, throw away your tissue immediately and wash your hands.
  • Keep your child at home if they have any cold and flu symptoms (even mild), including, fever, chills, sweats, runny nose, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath or loss of sense of smell or taste. (If your child displays any of these symptoms while in attendance, we will contact you to pick up your child immediately).
  • Use of fever-reducing medication (for example, paracetamol or Ibuprofen) to your child before attending is not acceptable. You will be asked to pick up your child when they are unwell.
  • If you are unwell, do not enter the centre until your symptoms have resolved.
  • If your child is being tested for COVID-19 with or without symptoms (asymptomatic), your child must stay at home until you receive a negative test result and complete any self-isolation requirements from the DH. 
  • If you are awaiting COVID-19 test results, please do not enter the centre until you receive a negative test result and complete any relevant self-isolation requirements from DH.
  • If your child is being tested for COVID-19, please continue to notify your centre via phone or email
  • Monitor the Victorian Public Exposures Sites frequently and adhere to all requirements from the DH related to testing and self-isolation requirements
  • Ensure you use QR Codes on entry to ECMS services on each occasion (including at pick up and drop off times)
  • As per the DH and DET advice, any adult entering the centre must wear a face-covering or mask at all times (unless and exemptions applies)  to help protect you and others by providing an additional barrier.
  • Only one parent or guardian (wearing a mask) should enter the centre at a time to collect your child.
  • Minimise the attendance of siblings at the centre. If you need help with this, then please speak with your Centre Director or Nominated Supervisor.
  • Use hand sanitiser as you enter and leave the centre.
  • Pick up and drop off your child as quickly as possible.
  • Use technology to communicate with your educator via phone calls and Storypark to discuss your child’s needs.

What is ECMS' policy and procedure for COVID-19 symptoms and the return to the service?

We require a clearance certificate for any noted diseases on the exclusion table provided by the DHHS. As COVID-19 is yet to be included on the exclusion table, and we are waiting for this information to be updated, we are using advice from the DET.

We encourage you to keep your child at home until they have fully recovered and are symptom-free. Should there be any concern about continuing symptoms on return, we may request a medical certificate.

If you, your child or a member of your household has tested positive or been declared a primary or secondary contact, you will be required to provide evidence (in writing) from the Department of Health to ensure that you have been cleared from the requirements of testing and self-isolation prior to their return to the service.  

My child has persistent mild symptoms. Do I need a medical certificate so they can attend the service?

Younger children may have prolonged post-viral symptoms such as a runny nose or cough and may return to the service following a negative COVID-19 test even if they are not entirely free of symptoms. They will need a medical certificate from their general practitioner doctor to confirm they are otherwise well or have recovered from their acute illness.

Any worsening of symptoms will require review and repeat COVID-19 testing if considered appropriate by their general practitioner doctor.

Children with a negative COVID-19 test whose symptoms have entirely resolved do not need a medical certificate to return to the service.

My child has an underlying condition (such as hay fever or asthma). Can they still attend the service?

If a child has persistent symptoms due to an underlying condition such as hay fever or asthma, the child should still be tested for COVID-19 if they develop symptoms different to or worse than their usual symptoms.

Parents/carers should also consider getting a medical certificate from their treating general practitioner doctor to confirm that it is safe for them to attend the service with persistent symptoms that may overlap with some of the symptoms of COVID-19, such as cough or runny nose.

How are you protecting my child at the centre?

In our everyday practice, we have strict protocols around cleaning to protect children and staff's health, safety and wellbeing. During this outbreak, we have increased the frequency of our centre cleaning that goes beyond our regulations. If there is a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis, the centre will also undergo further professional cleaning with high-grade disinfectant products. Please speak with your Centre Directors or Nominated Supervisors to discuss other measures in place at your centre.

How can I protect my child and family from COVID-19?

The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to practice good hygiene and social distancing.

This includes:

  • Wash hands often with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds. Dry with a paper towel or hand dryer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow.
  • Throw tissues away immediately and wash your hands.
  • Ensure your hand sanitiser is alcohol-based (with over 60 per cent alcohol). Please note that hand sanitiser can be poisonous if ingested, so ensure it is kept out of reach of young children.
  • Exercise social distancing (stay more than 1.5 metres from people).
  • Monitor the Victorian Public Exposures Sites frequently and adhere to all requirements from the Department of Health related to testing and self-isolation requirements

My child has complex medical needs. Can they attend?

Please speak to your medical practitioner about on-site education and care during COVID-19. We will assist you as best as possible during this time.

Will I be notified if there is a diagnosed case at my centre?

Yes, we will immediately inform all families and staff.

What happens if the centre is forced to close?

If a closure is necessary, the following will happen:

  • We will take the direction of the DHHS.
  • If required to close, we will notify you of the closure via email and SMS, including possible closure timeframes. 
  • If available at that time, we will notify you of the requirements for testing and self-isolation

During a centre's closure, we will update you through our communication channels, including when the centre will re-open; and other health and wellbeing measures available to you and your family.

My child is not feeling well, but does not have a temperature, what should I do?

The DH states that adults and children, even with the mildest of symptoms, should seek medical advice and get tested. More information is available here. If your child is displaying any signs of an illness – this includes cold, flu or is unwell with a temperature, you should not bring them to the centre. The Government has released a symptom tool to help provide clarity between cold, flu and COVID-19 symptoms.

What happens if my child is unwell at the centre?

If your child displays cold or flu symptoms, or is unwell with a temperature while at the centre, we will contact you to pick up your child immediately. Staff attending to a child who has any illness symptoms must wear a face mask.

My child has been tested for COVID-19 but does not have any symptoms. Can they attend?

In line with advice from the Department of Health, anyone who has been tested for COVID-19 must self-isolate until results can prove negative and follow any requirements for self-isolation. Therefore, they cannot attend the centre. This includes children, parents (or members of the immediate household) and staff who have been tested, even without symptoms.

What if I think I have COVID-19?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle pain and fatigue. The DHHS has created a self-assessment tool to help people at risk or who are concerned.

Are you still having incursions and excursions?

In line with government restrictions, excursions and incursions are cancelled. These restrictions change frequently.  Please see your Nominated supervisor to view the latest COVID safe plan to determine when these may be able to be reintroduced.

Will open days and family days still go ahead?

At this time, Service tours, orientation, and transition activities are unable to occur.  Once government restrictions are removed these will be reintroduced as soon as possible subject to density limits.

My family is planning to travel interstate or overseas this year. Do I need to update the centre?

We ask that if you have travel booked for this year that you regularly check Smart Traveller for travel restrictions. Any travel overseas to any country will require 14 days of self-isolation upon return.

Victoria has commenced a travel permit system for all domestic travel into Victoria.  All Victorian residents returning from interstate travel are required to adhere to the relevant testing and isolation requirements.  Further information is available at the Victoria Travel Permit System Website.  Families should consider any potential impacts if they are planning on travelling interstate and can only return to the service once they have complied with the requirements of their relevant permit.

If you are planning to travel interstate or overseas this year, we ask that you let your Centre Director or Nominated Supervisor know your destination and dates. You can also email this information to Covid-19@ecms.org.au.

How do I stay updated with COVID-19?

We will continue to keep you updated with advice that follows the national public health guidelines to ensure the health and safety of children and staff in our centres.

Other sources for updates and support are: 

  • The Australian Government's Coronavirus Australia app. iOS download here. Android download here.
  • Daily updates from the COVIDsafe app
  • Daily updates from the DH website.
  • Fact sheets from the DET website.
  • Video resources with information and tips from the DHHS website.
  • The National Coronavirus Health Information Line (call 1800 020 080), which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Translating or interpreting services (call 131 450).