Children in nurseries, extracurricular clubs and Flying Start should no longer remain in “contact bubbles”
Children will no longer have to stay in contact bubbles in daycares and play structures in Wales, the Welsh government has announced.
Changes, effective July 19, include nurseries, after school and vacation clubs and the Flying Start offer.
Announcing the changes, Deputy Minister of Social Services Julie Morgan said in a written statement: “While the public health position remains of concern, I am delighted that we are now in a position to relax one of the requirements that has been of greatest concern to the industry.
Childcare facilities were necessary to ensure that children are kept in cohesive contact groups. They were also asked to reflect the contact groups that children are in at school and to ensure that there is no mixing between the groups. These measures have led some to warn that they may have to shut down permanently. You can read more about it here.
Ms Morgan said the contact bubbles had been “a vital measure during the peak of the pandemic and before the rollout of community testing and vaccines, but they were no longer needed for child care and play.
Instead of contact groups, the focus will be more on contact tracing.
“The settings will need to ensure that they keep detailed records of participation and activities to allow clear identification of close contacts with a positive case,” the statement added.
The end date for contact bubbles in daycares and play settings goes into effect at the end of the school term, and there is still debate over what the next term will look like.
There has still been no announcement on whether schools will still have to operate with contact bubbles in the next term, although many of those who use daycare will also be attending schools.
Education Minister Jeremy Miles said on Monday that schools, colleges and universities will decide what level of Covid mitigation they need in the next quarter, depending on the local situation with the coronavirus. But he gave no details on what that would look like in practice, what the risk level criteria would be, or who would decide and apply it.
Principals and unions responded with fury, saying they needed more details with the term end just two weeks away.
Ms Morgan said: ‘In discussion with public health officials and in line with the broader community approach to mitigate the risk of transmission, the decision was made to move away from the focus on the requirement to maintain consistent contact groups in our daycares and games. parameters, including the Flying Start parameters.
“The use of coherent contact groups will no longer be required from Monday July 19.
“Child care and play services, including our Flying Start settings, have been a key part of our response to Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.
“The role of these facilities in providing stimulating environments for our children and the vital support they provide to parents, especially those who depend on childcare for work, cannot be overstated. “
She said the number of Covid outbreaks in child care and play facilities has remained “relatively low” and staff are offered rapid coronavirus tests twice a week.
Contact bubbles also make less sense now that children can attend more than one facility, or use childcare or play facilities near school.
The written statement continued, “We are in a position where we have been able to relax a number of the broader restrictions put in place to deal with the virus.
“For children and youth, it saw the reintroduction of organized activities, allowing them to mingle with others on a larger basis. This means that many children now find themselves in several contact groups, through school, daycare and all the additional activities they undertake. “
What about schools?
Laura Doel, director of the National Association of Cymru School Principals, said principals fear that if contact bubbles are removed in schools in the next term, they will have to perform a complex and time-consuming contact tracing. in case of case
They are also concerned about who would be held responsible in the event of problems and possible disputes.
“Our biggest concern is the whole concept of removing classroom bubbles and asking schools to provide information on close contacts,” Ms. Doel said.
“It is totally unreasonable to expect schools to know who their students are sitting on during lessons when they are on the move all day (this is how teaching and learning in elementary school works); who they sit next to for lunch; school and with whom they played in the schoolyard.
“If schools fail to identify a close contact, who will be held accountable? It is simply an unrealistic expectation on the part of schools to do so accurately.
“We understand that the Welsh government guidelines for schools will focus on schools by increasing or reducing mitigation measures based on the broader risk in the locality. Mitigation cannot be turned on and off like a switch . It takes planning, it takes time, there might be additional costs involved, if it means the staff is not able to get through the bubble, they may need extra staff. In addition, we don’t ‘do not yet have details on how will decide the level of risk. “