Bubble Sizes – What ECE Centres Really Want

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The Ministry of Education has allowed early childhood centres where the Delta strain is in the community to double the size of bubbles from 10 to 20 children at Alert Level 3 Step 2. Meanwhile, 167 new cases of Covid-19 were reported today.

The Ministry made this decision to enable centres with premises that cannot accommodate all or most of their children in small class sizes, to pack more children in.

The increase in bubble size raises the question of why not just let all children in a licensed centre mingle? 

To answer this question and to know whether it really is safe to increase the bubble size, first we need to consider what else we can do to protect children against Covid.

Vaccination, face-mask wearing and ventilation are key ways to protect children against the Delta strain. However, the efficacy of these protection methods is problematic in early childhood education (ECE) centres for the following reasons.  

  1. Vaccination. A vaccine is still a way off being available for under-fives. Therefore, in NZ the highest concentration of risk with the unvaccinated will become ECE centres since centres may have as many as 150 children together at any one time.
  2. Face-mask wearing. Babies and young children wearing face masks is not an effective strategy to provide protection and reduce the spread of infection as it is for older children and adults.
  3. Ventilation. Services can be told to ensure good ventilation, but there can still be a problem of overcrowding due to the space requirement per child (only 2.5 sq m per child). Most sleep rooms don’t have windows that open. Sleep rooms can have doors that stay closed while multiple children are resting within. Air conditioning units just circulate the same air around and heat pumps cannot cope with open windows.       

In its newsletter last week, the Office of Early Childhood Education (OECE) polled teacher-led education and care centres in Alert Level 3 areas on what they thought about the current bubble size restriction of 10 children. The findings are summarised below and recommendations are provided on bubble size and other actions for the Ministry of Education to take.  

Bubble size change – What do centres want and when?

Keep reading – Go to the full news story: Is Increasing Bubble Size in ECE Centres where Covid-19 is out of control an Intelligent Decision?

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