Establishing new safety measures for children under phase 3 of Omicron response

Establishing new safety measures for children under phase 3 of Omicron response

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Petition to
Early Childhood Council and

Why this petition matters

Started by Bruce Taylor

Health safety within early childhood education (ECE) centres has become questionable due to the nature of New Zealand’s phase 3 of its Omicron response. Although the pandemic is changing, some of these changes can have serious consequences – especially for young children in these ECE centres. We believe it is one of our duties to push for more security measures to keep these children safe and protected from COVID-19.

One of the main concerns is that close contacts can work with children under the ‘close contact exemption scheme’. The biggest problem with this is that it leaves children at risk of getting COVID-19. When we look at established health concerns, such as vomiting or diarrhoea, the ‘48hour rule’ often comes into effect to protect vulnerable children. However, now that close contacts (without symptoms) may come back to work without an incubation period, it raises a concern that we need to investigate and nominate a clear plan for ECE centres to follow.

Another issue for teachers is health-compromising interactions with children who are unaware of the consequences of COVID-19. Children and infants are unaware and unable to distance themselves 1metre apart from each other because they don’t understand the implications of COVID-19. They will still play together, cuddle, ask for hugs and affection, cough, sneeze, etc. The concern some teachers have is how to deal with these situations? If a child asks for a cuddle, Should the teacher say yes or no? How will the child react if the teacher turns them away? What if the teacher gives in but was a close contact? Children are innocent and cannot wear facemasks. There are no set guidelines for these safety issues, so it would be beneficial to show how to deal with these cautious situations around delicate children.

New Zealand’s ‘Covid elimination strategy’ has proven to be too difficult even against our best efforts. Now, with vaccines available, we are forced to transition into a lifestyle where we have to live amongst COVID-19 (February 2022). In the early stages of Covid, children were regarded as the most vulnerable groups to be protected, but now children without vaccine protection face exposure in high-risk social environments, as tens of thousands of covid cases are appearing in the community daily (22,152 cases announced Wednesday 2nd March). 

Now that we have shifted into a ‘Covid-acceptance’ lifestyle like America and England, ECE centres are overwhelmed and suffering due to stress/general wellbeing, teachers & families isolating, staff shortages, child attendance/safety, unemployment under mandatory vaccines – the list goes on. According to a study from UC Berkeley Center (America), In the first six months of the pandemic, the U.S. childcare system industry shrunk by 20% due to the pressures of the pandemic [1].

New Zealand is only a small country compared to America or England. The bottom line is that this sudden shift needs to be reviewed to form a new safety system so that our ECE centres can continue to operate and keep our little ones safe and protected!

1. "COVID-19 is ravaging U.S. early childhood education, new report finds"

123 have signed. Let’s get to 200!