COVID-19: Nurseries want priority access to testing and vaccines

·2-min read

Early Years leaders are demanding access to tests and vaccines if nurseries are to remain open.

Staff in the sector say they're frightened their workplaces aren't safe.

Online petitions have been set up calling for nurseries to close if extra support isn't given.

In the first lockdown the government shut all nurseries, but this time they're open in England and Wales.

Ministers insist the risks are low, with nurseries providing crucial support for working parents.

But nursery owner, Alex Quist, says she feels "forgotten" and would prefer to close rather than stay open.

"It's impossible to socially distance with this age. They need cuddles, close contact. We change their nappies throughout the day," she said.

Like many other nursery providers she's not convinced early years settings are safe, and feels nurseries are often overlooked, unlike schools and colleges.

Nursery worker, Liam Thompson, caught COVID and spent Christmas in bed.

"Me and a few other staff, we caught it in nursery, came from child to parent and it spread pretty quickly," he said.

Liam says procedures were carefully followed but the virus spread "faster than we could control".

He's so worried about safety he set up and online petition calling for nurseries to close. Tens of thousands have already signed it.

Nurseries have been closed in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

With soaring infection rates across much of the UK, there are now wider calls for nurseries to shut, backed by both the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and the UK's biggest union, Unison.

Early Years leaders say they need to see the data, and they want nursery staff to have priority access to tests and vaccines.

Chief Executive of the Early Years Alliance, Neil Leitch, told Sky News: "We're simply saying make our environments safe and there are things that government could do to make sure that happens.

"One is they could prioritise us in terms of testing. And they could move us up the ranks in terms of priorities of vaccinations."

In a statement a Department of Health spokesperson said: "Early years settings remain low risk environments for children and staff and there is no evidence that the new variant of coronavirus disproportionately affects young children.

"Keeping nurseries and childminders open will support parents and deliver the crucial care and education for our youngest children."