Rapid testing expanded for children at preschool and daycare

Tests for kids: Rapid antigen tests will be supplied to parents of children at kindergarten and daycare to help screen for coronavirus, the Victorian Government has announced. Photo by Megan Fisher

The Victorian Government will expand its rapid antigen testing scheme to include early childcare settings for children aged three to five years during the next week-and-a-half.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said having more information about positive COVID-19 cases would allow cases to be detected earlier, with children less likely to show symptoms, especially early on.

“It’s extending that peace of mind and certainty to families to know they’re not going to have it,” he said.

He said not every child would participate and the system would be voluntary — although highly recommended — with 1.6 million additional RATs to be handed out, starting with session kindergartens, then family daycare and occasional care.

The government has also invested $7.5 million in early childhood services to improve ventilation, alongside a further $7.4 million in grants to support kindergarten services to implement their best COVID-safe measures.

Mr Andrews also said the start of the school year had gone well.

“It’s about acknowledging bringing thousands of people together who haven’t been together over summer you’re bound to get more cases,” he said.

Victorian Education Minister James Merlino said he knew there would be cases in schools but was pleased by the way students and staff had responded.

“We’re pleased with how the first week of school has gone,’’ he said.

“We knew there would be positive cases but it means we get to cases early, you stop transmission. No school has had to close its doors and go to online only.”

He said no school had needed to call on a pool of retired teachers and principals who were on call to assist with staff shortages and, in fact, the staff absence level was less than pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Victoria has recorded 20 deaths and 9785 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, with 575 people in hospital and 72 in intensive care.