Coronavirus: Government issues social distancing guidance to minimise virus spread

Warning people not to visit a school or childcare setting if they have coronavirus symptoms and keeping classes as small as possible are ways to manage social distancing, the Government says.

Settings are being asked to consider how children arrive at the setting.
Settings are being asked to consider how children arrive at the setting.

The Government has issued guidance on how to manage social distancing in childcare and education settings following the Coronavirus outbreak.

Published by the Department for Education and Public Health England [24 March 2020], Coronavirus (COVID-19): implementing social distancing in education and childcare settings, advises childcare and education sites that remain open on how to help ensure that the risk of virus spread for both staff and children is as low as possible.

Key guidance from the Government includes:

  • telling children, parents, carers or any visitors, such as suppliers, not to visit the education or childcare setting if they are displaying any symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • considering how children arrive at the education or childcare setting and reduce any unnecessary travel on coaches, buses or public transport
  • ensuring class sizes reflect the numbers of teaching staff available and are kept as small as possible
  • staggering lunch times, break times and the movement of pupils around the school to reduce large groups of children gathering
  • discouraging parents from gathering at school gates
  • trying to follow the social distancing guidelines

Social distancing ‘harder to maintain’ in very young children
The guidance warned that social distancing within education and childcare settings with very young children ‘will be harder to maintain’.

‘Staff should implement the above measures as far as they are able, while ensuring children are kept safe and well cared for within their settings,’ it said.

Children are likely to become infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) at roughly the same rate as adults, but the infection ‘is usually mild’, the guidance said.

Since 20 March 2020, schools, colleges, nurseries, childminders and other registered childcare settings in England have been closed for all but the most vulnerable children and for children of critical workers.

It was announced on 23 March that the UK would enter a stricter period of social distancing, with people only allowed to leave home for very limited purposes. ‘The UK-wide measures are intended to delay the spread of the virus – if the majority of the country are strictly self-isolating, this allows for some people to gather where that is necessary, whether it be in hospitals, food production facilities, or in schools or childcare settings,’ the guidance said.

The Government said its advice ‘seeks to support staff working in schools, other education and childcare settings to deliver this approach in the safest way possible, focusing on measures they can put in place to help limit risk of the virus spreading within education and childcare settings.

‘It should be read in conjunction with the advice on school closuresvulnerable children and childcare.’

The Government added its advice would be updated, ‘as the situation evolves, while further guidance relating to special schools will be published as soon as possible’.

Read the full guidance here


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