COVID-19: Latest Restrictions announced (11 October 2021)

After more than 15 weeks of lockdown and restrictions (since 26 June 2021), the NSW Government has issued its new NSW Public Health Order (COVID-19 General) Order 2021 which came into effect on 11 October 2021. The main aspects of this new NSW Public Health Order are as follows:


  1. the restrictions of COVID unvaccinated and partially vaccinated persons;
  2. the whole of New South Wales being in the General Area (and at the time of writing this, there are no areas listed as Stay-At-Home Areas);
  3. the continuation of early childhood education and care (ECEC) facilities (listed under the term child care facility) as being Exempted Gatherings (see Schedule 3, Item 1(l) generally as well as Clause 3.4(2)(d) for Stay-At-Home Areas in the NSW Public Health Order);
  4. the continuation of no restrictions on parents/guardians to bring their child/children to ECEC facilities (as there are none mentioned for General Areas, and it is listed as a Reasonable Excuse for Stay-At-Home Areas under Schedule 2, Item 3 of the NSW Public Health Order); and
  5. the term "Authorised Worker" is not used in this NSW Public Health Order. However, relevant requirements or restrictions may apply to relevant individuals as listed below.

It is also worthwhile noting that the NSW Government is developing their new NSW Public Health Order(s) to be in concert with the National Plan to transition Austalia's National COVID-19 Response.


COVID-19 SAFETY PLANS


As ECEC services are not listed in Schedule 4 of the NSW Public Health Order, ECEC services appear to have no obligation to create COVID-19 Safety Plans (see Clause 4.4(1) of the the NSW Public Health Order).


MANDATORY VACCINATION


Please note that the requirement to be fully COVID vaccinated remains in force with the NSW Public Health (COVID-19 Vaccination of Education and Care Workers) Order 2021. This mandatory vaccination requirement is still to be achieved by 8 November 2021.


This requirement applies not just to Approved Providers, educators, teachers and staff employed by the ECEC services, it also extends to a range of other individuals associated to the ECEC services. These are explained in ACA NSW's COVID-19: Latest Restrictions announced (23 September 2021) article.


Other than a medical contracindication certificate (ie temporary exemption), only education and care workers who carry out relevant work in an emergency do not need to have 2 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine or have a medical contraindication certificate (see Clause 4(4) of the NSW Public Health Order).


UNVACCINATED ADULTS - ADDITIONAL RESTRICTIONS IN THE GENERAL AREA


In this new NSW Public Health Order, it refers to Unvaccinated Adults not allowed on premises of "Information and Education Facilities" (see Clause 2.18(1)(e) of the NSW Public Health Order).


However, the term "Information and Education Facilities" is defined as "a building or place used for providing information or education to visitors, and the exhibition or display of items, and includes an art gallery, museum, library, visitor information centre and the like" (see page 51 of the NSW Public Health Order).


Therefore, by extension, Unvaccinated Adults (which include those partially vaccinated) are permitted to be on ECEC premises in the General Area.


OPERATIONAL - IN GENERAL AREAS


  1. ECEC services may continue to remain open to the public (see Schedule 3, Item 1(l) generally as well as Clause 3.4(2)(d) for Stay-At-Home Areas in the NSW Public Health Order).

  2. The maximum number of persons requirements in the context of the Public Health Order do not apply to ECEC related personnel . This exemption also extends to other individuals engaged in work on the ECEC premises (known as "Excluded Persons") (see Clause 1.7(1), Clause 1.7(3) and Clause 2.3(2)(f) of the NSW Public Health Order).

  3. Singing or dancing indoors are NOT allowed as ECEC services are NOT educational establishments (see Clause 2.21(2)(b) and page 47 the NSW Public Health Order). However, there appears to be no restrictions on singing and/or dancing outdoors in ECEC services.

  4. Persons over the age of 12 years of age must wear a fitted face coverings while the person is in an indoor area other than a place of residence (see Clause 2.15(1)(a) of the NSW Public Health Order).

  5. Persons over the age of 12 years of age must wear a fitted face coverings while the person is in an indoor area other than a place of residence (see Clause 2.15(1)(a) of the NSW Public Health Order). NOTE: The requirement to wear a fitted face covering does not exist while the person is in an outdoor area other than a place of residence.

  6. Persons may remove a fitted face covering if the person is communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing OR enunciation or visibility of the person’s mouth is essential (see Clause 2.17(1)(c) and Clause 2.17(1)(d)(ii) of the NSW Public Health Order).

  7. Persons may remove a fitted face covering if the person is required to remove the covering for the proper provision of goods or service (see Clause Clause 2.17(1)(f)(ii) of the NSW Public Health Order).

  8. Persons who remove the person's fitted face covering must resume wearing it as soon as practicable after the circumstance ends (see Clause 2.17(2) of the NSW Public Health Order).

  9. Persons over the age of 12 years of age must carry a fitted face covering unless the person is in the person's place of residence (see Clause 3.16(1) of the NSW Public Health Order).

  10. A person is not required to carry or wear a fitted face covering on the basis of health, disability, or its unsuitability with evidence in the form of a medical certificate or other written evidence from a registered health practitioner or NDIS provider or by statutory declaration (see Clause 2.16 of the NSW Public Health Order).

  11. Whether fully COVID vaccinated or not, employers must allow an employee to work at the employee's place of residence if it is reasonably practicable to do so (see Clause 2.23(1) and Clause 2.23(2) of the NSW Public Health Order).

  12. Employers must require an employee to work at the employee's place of residence if that place of residence is in a Stay-At-Home Area and if it is reasonably practicable to do so (see Clause 2.23(4) and Clause 3.19) of the NSW Public Health Order).


OPERATIONAL - IN STAY-AT-HOME AREAS


  1. Please note that at the time of writing this article, there are no areas across NSW that are listed as Stay-At-Home Areas.

  2. That said, should there be Stay-At-Home Area(s) in the future, a person who has not been in the Stay-At-Home Area during the previous 14 days are not required to observe the restrictions listed for Stay-At-Home Areas (see Clause 3.2(6)(a) of the NSW Public Health Order).

  3. ECEC services may continue to remain open to the public (see Clause 3.4(2)(d) of the NSW Public Health Order).

  4. Singing indoors is NOT allowed as ECEC services are NOT educational establishments (see Clause 3.20(2)(b) and page 47 the NSW Public Health Order). However, there appears to be no restrictions on singing outdoors in ECEC services.

  5. Persons over the age of 12 years of age must wear a fitted face coverings while the person is in an indoor area or outdoor area other than a place of residence (see Clause 3.16(2)(a) of the NSW Public Health Order).

  6. Persons may remove a fitted face covering if the person is communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing OR enunciation or visibility of the person’s mouth is essential (see Clause 3.18(1)(c) and Clause 3.18(1)(d)(ii) of the NSW Public Health Order).

  7. Persons may remove a fitted face covering if the person is required to remove the covering for the proper provision of goods or service (see Clause Clause 3.16(1)(f)(ii) of the NSW Public Health Order).

  8. Persons who remove the person's fitted face covering must resume wearing it as soon as practicable after the circumstance ends (see Clause 3.16(2) of the NSW Public Health Order).

  9. Persons over the age of 12 years of age must carry a fitted face covering unless the person is in the person's place of residence (see Clause 3.16(1) of the NSW Public Health Order).

  10. A person is not required to carry or wear a fitted face covering on the basis of health, disability, or its unsuitability with evidence in the form of a medical certificate or other written evidence from a registered health practitioner or NDIS provider or by statutory declaration (see Clause 3.17 of the NSW Public Health Order).


PRIORITISED VACCINATIONS FOR ECEC


ECEC personnel in NSW continue to have access to the following prioritised COVID vaccinations:



DO YOU HAVE DIFFICULTIES COMPLYING WITH FULL COVID VACCINATION BY 8 NOVEMBER 2021?


The Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) NSW has been collecting feedback from services and educators/teachers/staff who are experiencing difficulties complying with full COVID vaccinations by 8 November 2021. If you have not yet provided your feedback, you can still do so via the survey form here.


FINES AND/OR PENALTIES


In addition to on-the-spot fines for individuals and corporations of between $40 to $1,000, fines and penalties for breaching NSW Public Health Orders are also in the order of up to $11,000 and $55,000 for individuals and corporations respectively, and a possible daily fines of up to $5,500 and $27,500 for individuals and corporations respectively, as well as possible imprisonment for up to 6 months.


OTHER CONSIDERATIONS


ACA NSW also strongly recomment that ECEC services observe:



Should you require any further information or clarification, please contact:


And for all COVID related information for the early childhood education and care sector, please visit ACA NSW's COVIDwatch.


PUBLISHED: 11 OCTOBER 2021

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