Covid Australia: Vaccinating millions of children ‘would halve spread of Delta variant’

Childcare staff in parts of Sydney will have to be vaccinated to go to work, under a new rule to address rising fears of transmission in daycare centres.

Thirty childcare centres are currently considered exposure sites across Sydney, mostly in the west and southwest, though there has been limited transmission so far.

Some 139 services have notified the Department of Education of positive COVID-19 cases since the current outbreak started in June, a spokesperson said.

On Friday, 115 childcare services were temporarily closed in NSW due to a ‘health emergency’, according to the childcare authority ACECQA.

The vaccine mandate will apply from August 30 for childcare workers who live or work in the 12 hotspot local council areas. They’ll need to have received at least one dose.

Parents across the state are now being urged to keep their children home if they can.

‘Unless you absolutely have to, please do not send your child to childcare or early childhood,’ Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Friday.

‘We know this is a big imposition for many families but…we’re seeing too much transmission from workers to families and we need that to stop.’

Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said earlier this week that parents who are working from home should keep their children at home.

Schools are seeing between one and three per cent of students attend in person. The government wants to see similar figures for childcare.

One of the affected centres is Glebe Montessori in inner Sydney, where a two-year-old tested positive for the virus last week.

A parent told AAP he and his wife were informed their toddler had tested positive and the centre was closed in a late-night email.

It was only three or four days later that he heard from NSW Health, who told him his child was considered a close contact. The family was already isolating.

The experience has been ‘terrifying’, said the man, who did not wish to be named. He spent the first day of isolation preparing documents outlining how to take care of his child should his wife and him succumb to the virus.

The couple had planned to withdraw their child from childcare once NSW hit 250 cases a day, but did not end up doing so because they could not care for their child and work at the same time.

‘There was a lot of anguish in that, should we have done that?’ he said.

He has now withdrawn his child, and quit his job to be able to care for them.

He wishes the government had done more to get educators vaccinated, and is also hoping for priority vaccination for kids, he said.

A childcare worker at a centre in Auburn in western Sydney told AAP it was ‘so scary’ to still be open, but the company had to keep paying its rent.

She worries the virus could be introduced by a cleaner or a child’s parents, some of whom are health care workers.

The children play together and sleep together, so she fears the virus could easily spread between them.

Though attendance numbers have dropped by around 70 per cent, some parents are still sending their kids to the centre to look after them while they work from home, which is ‘not fair’ for other families, she said.

‘Some parents say, ‘if my little child stay home, I cannot work because they will be sitting in front of the TV for the whole day’,’ she said.

‘Parents can stop the virus going around, they can keep their child at home.’

Children aged under 10 have made up around 13 per cent of cases in NSW in the past three weeks.

Some 517 have tested positive in the past week alone, including 80 in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday.

– Australian Associated Press