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How to protect from or stop the spread of infections like coronavirus.

First published:
25 May 2021
Last updated:

The setting

What is the best way to clean childcare settings?

Your childcare setting should have had a cleaning schedule in place before the coronavirus pandemic, in line with the guidance on infection prevention and control published by Public Health Wales. You should review the guidance now, as it contains helpful information such as a template that can be used to develop a cleaning schedule, and detailed information on how to clean some of the materials that you might use in your setting.

During the pandemic, increasing how often you clean will greatly reduce the presence of the virus and the risk of contact with it. You may need to clean surfaces that you did not clean previously. All surfaces that are frequently touched should be cleaned at least twice a day including at the end of the day.  This will include light switches, door handles on inside and outside doors, and electronic devices. This is particularly important in kitchens and bathrooms shared by children or staff. Toilets and sinks do not need to be cleaned between individual children, but settings may want to consider cleaning before/after contact group changes.

If your setting runs sessions including different groups of children, cleaning should also take place between sessions – for example, between morning and afternoon sessions if these are for different children.

The same cleaning products that you used before the pandemic, for example standard household detergents or bleach, are effective against coronavirus. Make sure that you always follow the directions on the label when storing and using cleaning products, do not mix chemicals together, and use soap and water to clean cloths and other reusable cleaning products after use.

Appendix 9 of the Public Health Wales infection and prevention control guidance for childcare settings includes information on how to clean specific surfaces and materials, for example toys, resources and soft furnishings. Where something cannot be easily cleaned – for example soft toys or natural materials like fir cones and wood pieces, you should consider removing these from use for the time being.

Remember that regular cleaning of surfaces and resources is only one of the steps that you and your staff can take to prevent transmission of coronavirus. While there is evidence that coronavirus can be transmitted through contact with hard surfaces, most cases of the virus are from contact with droplets from people who are infected. Welsh Government has published Protective Measures Guidance for childcare settings that outlines other things you should do, such as hand washing, social distancing, making sure that staff or children who are unwell stay at home, and keeping children and staff within smaller groups to limit their contact with others.

What is a deep clean vs a professional clean, and if professional is considered more effective, when that should be done?

The Health and Safety Executive defines deep cleaning as a thorough clean of all frequently touched surfaces at least once a day. By following the advice above, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces at least twice a day, you will be carrying out deep cleaning of your premises.

There is no current recommendation for childcare settings to use professional cleaning companies to clean their premises, even in the event of a positive coronavirus case in a staff member or child. Guidance is available on cleaning in non-healthcare settings. Generally if someone at the setting tests positive, you should clean as normal, but using disposable cloths and cleaning equipment.  You should be especially careful about the disposal of tissues and other waste produced by the person who has tested positive. The Welsh Government Protective Measures Guidance for Childcare settings also provides advice on responding to infection at the setting

What PPE is required at childcare settings?

The Protective Measures Guidance for childcare settings sets out what PPE should be used at childcare settings day to day as well as when there is suspected Coronavirus in a setting. 

The guidance emphasises that all staff should understand how to put on and remove PPE in order to reduce the risk of onward transmission of infection.

The guidance also has advice on the use of face coverings at childcare settings.

How should waste be dealt with?

Waste from areas where possible cases of COVID-19 have been should be disposed of in accordance with the Infection Prevention and Control for Childcare Settings Guidance and the principles outlined in the Covid-19 cleaning advice.

Waste should be stored safely and kept away from children. More information can be found in the Protective Measures Guidance.

How can we ensure adequate ventilation?

Ventilation, along with other measures like cleaning and social distancing, is important to reduce the risk of airborne transmission of coronavirus but it is recognised that a balance needs to be found between keeping your childcare setting warm enough and ensuring a good flow of air.

The Protective Measures for Childcare settings guidance provide advice on both mechanical and natural ventilation.

How can we keep our settings safe?

In addition to the specific advice on activity and cleaning above, all settings and practitioners should bear in mind the following:

  • Minimise the contacts of both staff and children to reduce the risks of transmission 
  • Share information where a child attends more than one setting
  • Ensure that staff and parents adhere to self-isolation guidance

The Protective Measures Guidance contains further detail on keeping settings safe.

How can we ensure we are keeping our staff safe?

As well as adhering to the advice provided in these FAQs and in the Protective Measures Guidance, settings can further support staff by utilising the workforce risk assessment tool, alongside their more general risk assessments.

The All Wales COVID-19 workforce risk assessment tool was developed for use in health and social care workplaces and has been adapted for use in education, youth work, childcare and playwork settings. It is intended to be used to assess if staff are at higher risk of developing more serious symptoms if they come into contact with the COVID-19 virus. Your employer and or voluntary organisation has a duty of care to protect the health and safety at work of employees and this includes understanding if they are in a higher risk category from COVID-19. 

The Tool uses government guidelines, and the most up to date research, evidence and data available to identify known risk factors, including age, sex, ethnicity, underlying health conditions, Body Mass Index (BMI) and any relevant family history in relation to COVID-19. It is a combination of these various factors coming together which contribute to the severity of infection.

Activities at the setting

Can children share resources - toys, books, paints, etc. and how often should resources be cleaned and/or quarantined, whether they’re shared or not?

The current recommendation from Welsh Government is that, as far as possible, children should not share toys and other equipment.

Where sharing of toys and other equipment is unavoidable, cleaning of these resources should be carried out in line with the Public Health Wales guidance on infection and prevention control for childcare settings. You should also ensure that shared outdoor equipment is cleaned.

Where something cannot be easily cleaned – for example soft toys, natural materials like fir cones and wood pieces, or toys that include a lot of parts such as Lego, you should consider removing these from use for the time being.

If a child or staff member at your premises tests positive for coronavirus, remember to include any toys or equipment they have touched when cleaning, following the guidance from Welsh Government.

Are children able to wear outdoor clothes/aprons/dressing up clothes provided by the setting?

Any clothing that you provide should be allocated to individual children, not shared, and washed before being used by a different child.

All clothing, bedding, soft furnishings and soft toys can be washed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions found on the label. There is no need to wash anything at a higher temperature or use special detergents.

Can settings take children on trips (i.e. local parks)?

If your setting has access to your own, private outdoor space, it is recommended that children spend as much time outdoors as possible.  This allows them to enjoy the benefits of physical activity, and coronavirus transmission between children is less likely in an outdoor environment. Children of primary school age and younger can interact outside without social distancing. The risk of coronavirus transmission in older children and adults is greater and so they should keep at least two metres apart even when outdoors. Outdoor play equipment can be used if you can ensure it is cleaned before use and between different groups of children.

Taking children to other outdoor spaces such as parks may require a risk assessment with consideration given to keeping children socially distanced from strangers especially if it is crowded, and the cleanliness of play equipment and surfaces such as benches and picnic tables. Further information can be found in the Protective Measures for childcare settings guidance.

When will it be possible for donations of resources from parents/community to be accepted?

If items can be stored for 72 hours or more and thoroughly cleaned before use, donations can be accepted.

Can we re-introduce messy play resources e.g. mud kitchens, water trays and sand trays etc., and if so, how would you define best practice?

Materials such as play-dough and sand that are very difficult to clean can present particular challenges.  In line with existing Public Health Wales guidance on infection prevention and control in early years settings during an outbreak of any infectious disease, it may be safest to avoid using these materials during the pandemic while increased preventative measures are in place.  The Protective Measures Guidance for childcare settings contains further advice on using difficult to clean items as well as water play.

Drinking water, snacks and tooth-brushing

What is the current advice on drinking water and snacks?

Children can bring snacks and water bottles with them, but these should not be shared. If you are providing plates, cutlery and cups, these should be allocated to individual children and not shared until the items is washed.

The Public Health Wales infection and prevention control guidance includes information on how to fill, clean and replace water bottles that are kept at the setting, and how parents can clean water bottles at home.

It is very unlikely that COVID-19 is transmitted through food and so childcare setting staff can safely handle food to be served to children. However, people handling food should wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and surfaces that are touched while preparing food should be cleaned frequently.

Can tooth-brushing be reintroduced?

The Designed to Smile programme remains on pause due to the pandemic, and settings continue to be advised to suspend their supervised tooth-brushing scheme. Information on restarting the programme, when available, will be published on the Designed to Smile website.