Hundreds of Australia’s early childhood centers are closed as the Omicron variant of Covid-19 sweeps the country, and there are calls for more financial support for the ailing sector. AAP reports.
About 286 centers were temporarily closed Thursday due to a health emergency, according to data released by Australia’s Child Education and Care Quality Agency.
Those numbers were even higher a week ago. As of Thursday last week, 295 centers in NSW were temporarily closed, 93 in Victoria and 51 in South Australia.
Lisa Bryant, a consultant in early education and care, told AAP that Covid-19 is “ripping through” daycare.
She says the sector feels left out and needs more financial support to survive.
While centers that close due to Covid-19 are allowed to waive families’ Gap fees and continue to receive the government subsidy, “that’s not enough money to keep those services going,” Ms Bryant says.
New government data shows that during the 2021 delta wave, more than 100 centers closed their doors permanently for a period of four months.
Between July 1 and November 1, 2021, 104 centers were permanently closed, Senate estimate data shows. That’s almost one a day.
Around 1,405 centers temporarily closed due to Covid-19 during this period, for an average of nine days.
Green Senator Mehreen Faruqi says the data shows the need for more financial support.
I’m really concerned that without proper early learning support during the Omicron wave, more centers will permanently close their doors like they did during Delta.
Time and time again, the government has been too slow to support early childhood education and care.
Under new rules agreed by the national cabinet last week, educators who have close contacts can now continue to go to work as long as they are asymptomatic.
A spokesman for the federal education ministry said the change allows more services to remain open.
But Bryant says it puts people at risk as workers’ fears mount over young children not being eligible for vaccination.
Prime minister Scott Morrison announced on Thursday that the federal government will share the cost of rapid testing with states and territories that decide to conduct surveillance testing at early learning centers, though it’s not clear which jurisdictions.