Rapid Antigen Home Testing enabling ECEC services to stay open starts 4 January 2022

This morning, the NSW Department of Education announced that NSW Health has endorsed the use of Rapid Antigen Home Testing (RAHT) when there are positive COVID-19 case exposures in early childhood education and care (ECEC) services. This opt-in process will become available from 4 January 2022.


However, please note that Close Contacts resulting from community exposures (ie external to the ECEC service) will not be eligible for RAHT. In those circumstances, please follow the NSW Department of Education's existing process for Close Contacts.


Should RAHTs be needed, ECEC services will need to complete and submit the NSW Department of Education on-line form within 24 hours of notification of a positive case attending your service. This form will be available via the NSW Department Education's dedicated webpage.


The NSW Department of Education will then deliver the RAHT kits for the appropriate number of staff and children impacted in your ECEC service.


To use the RAHT Test-To-Stay [in the ECEC service] program:


  1. Your ECEC staff and children must have a PCR (nose and throat swab) test conducted at a clinic immediately on notification of being a Close Contact.
  2. If the initial PCR test is negative, the RAHT kits should then be used each day for 7 days.
  3. All staff and children can return to their ECEC service provided their RAHT result for that day is negative. But they must continue to isolate outside of their ECEC service.
  4. Should any staff or child return a positive RAHT result at any stage, they can no longer attend the ECEC service. They must then get a PCR test and isolate at home.
  5. Once RAHT kits have been used for 7 consecutive days with consistent negative results, the isolation period will end.
  6. If a parent/guardian/carer following the RAHT pathway does not provide the result of a negative test each day, the child(ren) must revert to isolation for the 7-day period following their last contact with the positive case.

If the ECEC service chooses NOT to use the RAHT test-to-stay [in the ECEC service] program:


  1. Your ECEC staff and children must have a PCR (nose and throat swab) test conducted at a clinic immediately on notification of being a Close Contact.
  2. Your ECEC staff and children must have a PCR (nose and throat swab) test conducted at a clinic again on Day 6.
  3. Close Contacts must isolate for 7 days after the last exposure date to a confirmed COVID 19 case.
  4. Your ECEC staff and children must get tested again on Day 12.

(A) HOW QUICKLY WILL THE RAHTS BE DELIVERED TO THE ECEC SERVICE?


The Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) NSW has been advised by the NSW Department of Education that they "... aim to have kits in services whilst staff/families are undertaking and awaiting the results of their PCR test (which is required). We are working with suppliers on ensuring delivery is timely."


(B) WHAT IF THE RAHTS ARE NOT DELIVERED QUICKLY OR IF THERE IS A TEMPORARY SHORTAGE?


ACA NSW is very much appreciative of the NSW Department of Education in their assisting ECEC services and children with their RAHT test-to-stay program.


That said, ACA NSW recognises that distribution logistics can differ for ECEC services in metropolitan, regional and rural areas. Hence, we strongly suggest that ECEC services purchase and maintain a sufficient quantity of RAHTs for their own use while they await the supply from the NSW Department of Education.


This will minimise service disruption.


(C) WHICH RAHTS WOULD BE RECOGNISED BY NSW HEALTH & NSW DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION?


ACA NSW has been advised by the NSW Department of Education that ECEC services should only use:


  1. TGA approved RAHT kits; and
  2. RAHTs that have a clinical sensitivity of "High Sensitivity" or "Very High Sensitivity".

The current list of RAHT kits is available via https://www.tga.gov.au/covid-19-rapid-antigen-self-tests-are-approved-australia.


(D) WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES TO ECEC SERVICES OR INDIVIDUALS FOR PROVIDING FALSE INFORMATION?


As the participation of the RAHT Test-To-Stay program requires a high degree of trust, ACA NSW advises that any provision of false information would potentially be in breach of the relevant NSW Public Health Order.


Financial penalties can be in the order of $1,000 to $5,000 for individuals, and $1,000 to $55,000 for ECEC services, plus a further $27,500 fine each day the offence continues/continued. Oher non-financial penalties can also be imposed.


Should members require any further information/clarification, please contact the ACA NSW team on 1300 556 330 or nsw@childcarealliance.org.au. 


Members may wish to refer to ACA NSW's "Is your service ready for COVID?" too. 


PUBLISHED: 23 DECEMBER 2021

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