The situation in relation to COVID-19 is a changing one and the Public Health Agency (PHA) advice is updated frequently to reflect that. Therefore I would urge all providers of registered childcare to check the PHA website on a daily basis.
If you have any specific queries you can contact the PHA on their helpline number 0300 200 7885 for advice in relation to specific queries, or visit their website for general updated information. https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/news/covid-19-coronavirus
The section on Guidance to Educational Settings is particularly relevant and will also be updated to reflect changes in the situation.
You can also contact NHS 111 helpline, and https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
This website provides good advice about the measures you can take to avoid infection, so I would advise all providers to visit it, read the information carefully and implement with all staff.
The Health and Social Care Board works closely with our public health colleagues in the Public Health Agency and NHS 111, who are the best placed to provide updated advice through their helpline in relation to any recommended actions that a provider of registered childcare should take in response to COVID-19.
This is naturally a worrying time for both staff and families and we appreciate your support in ensuring that we follow the advice of public health professionals in ensuring an effective and proportionate response to a changing situation.
In addition providers of Registered Childcare should note the following:
- Under DOH Minimum Standards 3 “Children’s Health and Wellbeing.” http://childcarepartnerships.hscni.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/early-years-standards-full-version-Updated-October-2018.pdf you are required to take appropriate steps to assess, manage and to inform the relevant government agency of possible sources of serious infections such as Coronavirus, which may affect children and their families, staff or visitors to your facility.
- You will have to do this in line with your own policies and procedures which you may need to review and amend. Any resulting action you take should take account of any specific advice you may need to seek, or have been given, from the Public Health Agency and/or Environmental Health.
- The Minimum Standards October 2018 at page 14 Footnote 5, references guidelines which the Public Health Agency have already produced on Infection Control –“Infection, Prevention and Control – Best Practice Advice for Nurseries and childcare settings.”
- If you are not already familiar with this document you should, download it from the following link https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/publications/infection-prevention-and-control-best-practice-advice-nurseries-and-childcare-settings
Please review it against your own policies and procedures governing “Infection, prevention and Control” and/or “Exclusion of Children from the setting.” You are also advised to review your equipment and resources to ensure they are sufficient for good hygiene and infection control.
- If your service is directly impacted by this infection, you should seek advice from the Public Health Agency in the first instance, following that you must inform your local HSC Trust Early Years Team to inform them, including the action you have taken, or are proposing to take to minimise or remove the risk to children, families and staff attending the facility.
- Notification to the Early Years team should include sharing the information you are providing to parents of children attending your provision. If you are required to cease your service for any period of time the local Trust Early Years Team will need to engage in discussion with you about this and to inform Family Support NI which holds the public register for childcare.