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Early childhood service operations during COVID-19

Find out more about early childhood operations during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Operators of early childhood services should consider their context and the level of transmission in the South Australian community in implementing aspects of the advice.

Vaccination in education and early childhood settings

For details about vaccination requirements see COVID-19 vaccination requirements for education and early childhood settings.

Attendance during COVID-19

Children should attend an early childhood service as normal unless they:

  • are self-isolating as directed by SA Health
  • are waiting for results of a COVID-19 test
  • are unwell.

For parents who choose to restrict their child’s physical attendance at an early childhood service, communication between the service and family is essential to ensure all children continue to be supported with their learning.

The Department for Education has a number of online resources on the Our Learning SA webpage to support children, families and educators for continued learning.

Face masks

Face masks are strongly recommended (but not required) for all adults (including visitors), except when teaching or interacting with children. 

Exemptions will be made for staff who have a medical condition, such as problems with their breathing, a serious skin condition on the face, a disability, or a mental health condition.

Masks provide a physical barrier between individuals, reducing risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Wearing a mask

Visit SA Health's website for guidance on how to wear a face mask and disposal of face masks .

Physical distancing

Physical distancing should be maintained between adults where possible.

Tips to enhance physical distancing:

  • Look at ways to limit parents and caregivers entering the foyer, children’s rooms and play areas during drop off and pick up. Be mindful of the supervision of children and ensuring unaccompanied children do not leave the service.
  • Consider multiple entry and exit points to your service to reduce the number of adults congregating, taking into consideration supervision and safety requirements.
  • Mark the floor to indicate physical distancing spaces in appropriate locations (eg the foyer, staff rooms, external pick up and drop off locations).
  • Limit the number of staff in common areas.
  • Adapt indoor activities for staff including encouraging staff to take breaks outside and holding meetings outdoors or online.
  • Signage to direct one-way flow of adults where practical.
  • Consider staggered start and finish times if your site has set start/finish times.  One example may be to divide the group and allocate times for pick up and drop off. (it is not expected that session times are extended to accommodate additional arrival and departure procedures).
  • Encourage staff, educators/care providers and parents to observe physical distancing requirements and not congregating in areas inside or around the early childhood service.

Physical distancing is not practical when providing direct care to children. In this situation, standard infection control precautions are advised. See NHMRC guidance staying healthy: preventing infectious diseases in early childhood education and care services.


A well-ventilated space can lower the risk of aerosol transmission of COVID-19.

To improve ventilation early childhood services can:

  • Increase fresh air into indoor spaces whenever possible by opening windows and doors, including staff rooms and administration areas.
  • Airing out rooms when not in use.
  • Using ceiling fans where natural ventilation is available to encourage airflow, however avoid using fans in enclosed spaces (where fresh air is not available).
  • Continue to use air conditioners and ceiling fans (where installed) and consider opening windows and doors to maximise fresh air and minimise recirculation.
  • Maximise the use of outdoor learning environments where appropriate.
  • While important, improved ventilation does not replace other infection control mechanisms such as physical distancing, personal hygiene and use of masks.

In cases of poor outdoor air quality (such as smoke, thunderstorm asthma events), windows and doors should be closed and air conditioners set to re-circulate.

Preventing and managing illness

The best way to stop the spread of illness is to practice good hygiene. Everyone is encouraged to:

  • wash their hands regularly, particularly after using the toilet and before eating
  • use alcohol based sanitiser – place it at the gate/service entrance for each parent and child to use on arrival
  • establish hand sanitation stations around the learning space to reduce children accessing the bathroom at the same time
  • wipe down frequently touched surfaces
  • cover a cough or sneeze with a tissue
  • avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth
  • if people are unwell, stay home to stop the spread of infections to others.

The SA Health Stop the Spread webpage has resources to display about preventing illness.

Translated resources from SA Health are available on the multicultural communities COVID-19 advice webpage.

Playgroup, parent programs or groups

Early childhood programs can resume operation. Programs should adhere to the following:

  • face masks are strongly recommended (but not required) for all adults when indoors, except when teaching or interacting with children 
  • practice universal precautions and infection control procedures, observe general advice on physical distancing and hygiene
  • all children, parents, carers and staff must stay home if unwell (even mildly)
  • maximise ventilation by leaving doors/windows open, continue use of air conditioning (set to fresh air intake where available) and fans, including with doors and windows open
  • outdoor activity is encouraged.

Parent and caregiver requirements

It is strongly recommended (but not required) that parents and caregivers wear a face mask when indoors. This includes when they are:

  • attending children’s centres, preschools or schools for events – for example playgroups, sports days or information evenings
  • volunteering – for example excursions or for student support.

Parents and caregivers do not need to wear a face mask if they have a medical exemption.

If there’s a positive COVID-19 case when parents are present SA Health close contact definitions and rules will apply. 

Student placements

Students undertaking placements in an early childhood service must meet vaccination requirements and follow the COVID safe measures implemented at the site.

COVID-19 (coronavirus) Team

Emaileducation.covidcoordination [at] sa.gov.au