Covid cases in nurseries more than doubles across settings

Leading early years organisations are urging the government to take action as Covid-19 cases in early years settings more than doubles.

The government’s latest figures show a sharp increase in settings reporting Covid-19 cases. Ofsted received 3,697 report of cases on 20 December. This is up from 2,935 for the week of 13 December, and 1,601 for the week of 6 December.

Currently, there is no requirement for under-fives to isolate or take daily lateral flow tests if there has been any contact with with a person who has tested positive.

Purnima Tanuku OBE, chief exec of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said: ‘We can see that the soaring community Covid case numbers are now reflected in the sudden uplift of notifications in early years settings from mid-December onwards. Cases more than doubled in just two weeks.

‘We expect these very high statistics to continue this month with nurseries continuing to tell us that many children and staff are unable to attend nursery.

‘NDNA is urgently collecting the latest data to show us the current trends week on week so we can ensure the Government understands the pressures that childcare providers are under. We will use this up-to-date evidence to make the strong case that the sector needs urgent support.’

Neil Leitch, chief exec of the Early Years Alliance, said:

‘It’s staggering that at a time when so many nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are being affected by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the Government has yet to announce any financial or practical support for our vital sector.

‘Reports of positive Covid-19 cases in early years settings were already skyrocketing before the Christmas break, but here we are, a week into January, with daily testing for some sectors, a staffing fund and the call for retirees to return to the profession for schools, but not a word about support for early years.

‘Given that there is no requirement for under-fives to isolate or take daily lateral flow tests if they have been in close contact with a positive Covid case, many in the early years are understandably deeply concerned about their ability to protect themselves, their colleagues and their loved ones from the virus, especially given that those who ask children to stay home in that instance could face lost fees and funding as a result.

‘There has been much discussion on the need to safeguard schools from this latest Covid-19 wave, but ignoring the needs of the early years sector will cause huge disruption for parents, employers and, of course, young children as well. With the end of this crisis still seemingly a long way off, the Government must immediately set out what it plans to do to ensure that early years providers are able to remain both safe and financially sustainable through this outbreak and beyond.’

Date published: January 12, 2022