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Childcare, school exclusions, and COVID-19

9-minute read

IMPORTANT: If you have severe difficulty breathing, call triple zero (000) immediately and tell the call handler and the paramedics on arrival about your recent travel history and any close contact with a person with confirmed or probable COVID-19.


Should I keep my healthy child home from school or childcare?

Acting on medical advice, the Australian Government recommends that schools remain open at this time. School closures don’t appear to be an effective way to prevent community transmission of COVID-19 and there is a low rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases among children compared to the broader population.

If your child has returned from any overseas travel, they will be in quarantine at a specific location and will not be able to attend school during this time.

If your child comes into close contact with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 (including close contact in the 48 hours before the person became unwell) they must quarantine for 14 days from the last contact. During this time your child cannot go to school or childcare.

If your child remains well after 14 days, they can leave quarantine. If your child develops COVID-19 symptoms during this time, they will need to get tested for COVID-19. Even if they test negative, your child must stay in quarantine for the full 14 days.

If your child tests positive, they will need to isolate. Anyone who has been in your household is a close contact and must quarantine.

If none of these circumstances apply to your child and they are feeling well, they can go to school or childcare.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Symptom Checker to find out if you need to seek medical help.


If the Symptom Checker tells you to contact your GP, please make sure you call your doctor to describe your child's symptoms and contact with a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case. You can also attend a COVID-19 clinic in your area.

The Australian Government Department of Health has more information for parents, schools and early childhood centres.

For any further information regarding school or childcare in your state or territory, go to the healthdirect Restriction Checker.

What help can parents get with childcare and early childhood education services?

The government Child Care Subsidy (CCS) and Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) programs help families with the cost of care.

The COVID-19 early childhood education and care relief package has now ended.

Families will again need to pay a child care gap fee, which is the amount you pay after government subsidies.

If you were getting CCS before 6 April 2020, your CCS started again automatically. You didn’t need to do anything as long as you were still eligible and enrolled.

If your income level or other circumstances have changed, you should update your details with Centrelink as soon as possible. You can do this through your Centrelink online account, through my.Gov.au, or via the Express Plus Centrelink mobile app.

If you’re new to child care, you should put in a claim for CCS as soon as possible. Otherwise, you’ll need to pay the full fee. CCS claims can’t be backdated more than 28 days from the date of claim.

For more information, visit education.gov.au and click on ‘Early Childhood and Child Care’.

Should I keep my child home from school or childcare if they recently returned from overseas?

If your child has returned to Australia from travel overseas they will be quarantined in a state or territory-designated facility, such as a hotel. Travellers will be transported directly to the designated facility after clearing immigration, customs and health checks. The facility will generally be in the city where the traveller enters Australia.

If while they are in quarantine your child develops symptoms such as a fever (temperature of 38°C or more and feverish symptoms such as chills or night sweats), OR they have an acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, shortness of breath or sore throat), notify the staff so medical assistance can be provided.

Should I keep my child home from school or childcare if they’re a close contact of a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case?

If you have been informed by public health authorities that your child is a close contact of a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19, even if they don’t have symptoms, they can’t go to school or childcare until public health authorities inform you that it’s safe for them to do so. (This includes close contact in the 48 hours before symptoms appeared in the infected person.)

You should monitor their symptoms. If your child develops symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath, use the healthdirect Symptom Checker to find out what to do next.

If the Symptom Checker indicates you should contact your GP, please make sure you call your doctor to describe your child's symptoms and contact with a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case. You can also attend a COVID-19 clinic in your area.

Are children at high risk of COVID-19 infection?

The risk to children and babies, and the role children play in transmitting COVID-19, is not yet clear. However, the rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases among children, compared to the broader population, has so far been low.

Where do I get information about school restrictions in my state or territory?

Across Australia, children have returned to school. Each state and territory government will continue to assess the situation and make its own recommendations. For up-to-date information on schools in your state or territory, follow the links below:

For national information, visit the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment website.

It is safe for your child to go to school. Closing schools completely does not appear to be an effective way to prevent community transmission of COVID-19 and there is a low rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases among children relative to the broader population.

The physical distancing rule of having 1 person per 4 square metres is not appropriate or practical in schools, nor is keeping 1.5 metres between students in classroom settings.

Boarding schools, on the other hand, may be at high risk of transmission and schools and parents should consider the risks versus the benefits of a student remaining in boarding school.

Are universities closing?

The Australian Government recommends that university and higher education should continue at this time, but with measures in place that reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Most universities are being encouraged to allow working and study from home where possible.

As with boarding schools, group student accommodation has a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission. Universities might consider closing or reducing accommodation numbers if measures cannot be put in place that reduce COVID-19 transmission.

Is a medical certificate needed for children returning to school/childcare after isolation?

If your child tests positive for COVID-19, they will need to isolate. This could be at home, somewhere more suitable or if they’re very sick — in hospital.

Your child must keep isolating until a public-health authority confirms they can stop and return to school.

Doctors can’t issue medical clearance certificates because if you don’t have symptoms, they can’t test to predict whether or not you’ll become unwell. However, students will need to meet the specific requirements set out by their school and state or territory health authority.

In some states and territories, schools may require evidence of a negative test result before your child can return after recovering from COVID-19.

You should only be tested for COVID-19 if you have had close contact with a confirmed case or have symptoms. If so, you can be provided with an SMS text confirming a negative COVID-19 test result.

If you’ve recovered from COVID-19 infection, or you’ve been identified as a close contact but you’ve completed your 14-day quarantine, you can get a letter to confirm your isolation or quarantine period has been completed.

If you live in Victoria, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) can provide a certificate.

More frequently asked questions (FAQs) about COVID-19

Click on the links below for more questions and answers about the coronavirus (COVID-19).


Information and alerts

Visit the Department of Health's website for the latest alerts on COVID-19 in Australia, or the World Health Organization's website for global updates.


Resources in other languages

COVID-19 resources in other languages are available from the Department of Health, as well as from the ACT, NSW, Qld, SA, Tas, Vic and WA health departments.

Information is also available in Aboriginal languages (NT), as well as about Ramadan during COVID-19 (SA).


Information for health professionals

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) provides coronavirus (COVID-19) information for GPs.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2020


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