To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to ensure that nursery and early years staff have access to (a) mass testing, (b) PPE and (c) covid-19 vaccines following the decision to keep early years settings open during the January 2021 national lockdown.
12 January 2021
During national lockdown restrictions, all early years providers remain open nationally to all children, providing vital early education and childcare. The wider restrictions in place as part of the national lockdown to contain the spread of the community enable us to continue to prioritise keeping early years providers open, supporting parents and delivering the crucial care and education needed for our youngest children.
The department is working closely with the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to ensure rapid asymptomatic testing for all early years staff to support early years providers to remain fully open. In the meantime, as they are essential workers, early years staff have priority access to symptomatic tests via the online portal.
As outlined in our published guidance, additional use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for COVID-19- related purposes is only needed in a small number of cases, such as if a child becomes ill with COVID-19 symptoms and a distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained, or when undertaking aerosol generating procedures. Public Health England has advised that the current guidance on the system of controls, including the use of PPE and face coverings, should continue to be followed.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are the independent experts who advise the government on which vaccine/s the UK should use and also provide advice on who should be offered them. JCVI advises that the first priorities for the COVID-19 vaccination should be the prevention of mortality and the maintenance of the health and social care systems. As the risk of mortality from COVID-19 increases with age, prioritisation is primarily based on age. In the next phase of the vaccine rollout, JCVI have asked that DHSC consider occupational vaccination in collaboration with other government departments. The Department for Education will input into this cross-governmental exercise.