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Childcare, school exclusions, and COVID-19

10-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.

Check your symptoms

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


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

Acting on medical advice, the Australian Government recommends that schools should remain open at this time. School closures do 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.

If your child has returned from any overseas travel, they will need to be isolated for 14 days from the date they arrived in Australia, even if they are healthy. This means your child will not be able to go to school or childcare.

If your child comes into close contact with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 coronavirus (including close contact in the 24 hours before the person became unwell) they should be isolated for 14 days from the last contact — even if they’re healthy. This means your child will not be able to go to school or childcare.

If a public health authority has informed you 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 the authority tells you it is safe for them to do so.

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

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.

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 seek medical help, it is very important that you call before visiting your doctor or the hospital emergency department, to describe your child’s symptoms and travel history.

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

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

Everyone arriving in Australia — including Australian citizens — must be isolated for 14 days from the date of their arrival.

If you arrive prior to midnight Saturday March 28, 2020, this can be done in your home or accommodation.

If you arrive from another country after midnight Saturday March 28, 2020, you 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 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), they should self-isolate and seek medical advice immediately.

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 tells you to seek medical help, it is very important that you call before visiting your doctor or the hospital emergency department, to describe your child’s symptoms and travel history.

Should I keep my child home from school/childcare if they are a close contact of a person with confirmed or probable COVID-19?

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 is safe for them to do so. (This includes close contact in the 24 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 tells you to seek medical help, it is very important that you call before visiting your doctor or the hospital emergency department, to describe your child’s symptoms and travel history.

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.

Should schools be closing because of the COVID-19 coronavirus?

Acting on medical advice, the Australian Government recommends that schools should remain open at this time. School closures do 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.

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.

While some parents may decide to keep their children at home until the end of term 1, schools will remain open for those who want their children to attend. Schools will, where possible, develop remote online learning options — although this may take time in some cases. No decisions have been made on whether schools will remain open or closed from term 2.

The government is continuing to assess the situation along with recommendations from federal and state health officials.

Most states and territories have announced pupil-free days for the rest of Term 1.

However, in most cases, children can still attend school if they cannot be looked after at home. Many schools are using these pupil-free days for teachers and staff to design remote learning plans for students.

  • ACT (Australian Capital Territory): from Tuesday 24 March 2020, all ACT public schools will go pupil-free until the school holidays, due to begin on Friday 10 April 2020.

  • New South Wales: term will end on Thursday 9 April as planned, parents are encouraged to keep children at home.

  • Northern Territory: from Monday 6 April 2020, all NT schools will go pupil-free until the school holidays, due to begin on Friday 10 April 2020.

  • Queensland: from Monday 30 March 2020, all Queensland state schools will go pupil-free until the school holidays, due to begin on Monday 6 April 2020.

  • South Australia: from Monday 6 April 2020, all SA government schools and preschools will go pupil-free until the school holidays, due to begin on Friday 10 April 2020.

  • Tasmania: at this time all Tasmanian schools remain open, but parents can keep their children at home if they wish.

  • Victoria: school holidays will be brought forward, starting on Tuesday 24 March 2020. No decisions have been made on whether schools will remain open or closed from term 2. Early childhood education, TAFE and training providers will remain open.

  • Western Australia: from Monday 6 April 2020, all WA government schools and preschools will go pupil-free until the school holidays, due to begin on Friday 10 April 2020.

Should universities be closing?

The Australian Government recommends that university and higher education should continue at this time — with risk mitigation measures in place, such as working from home arrangements, where possible.

As with boarding schools, group student accommodation has a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission. Universities might consider closing or reducing accommodation densities if risk mitigation is not possible.

Can Year 11 and 12 students in China come back to Australia?

Year 11 and 12 students who remain in China (outside Hubei province) due to Australian travel restrictions have been offered a strict pathway to resume their studies.

Students who are completing their senior secondary schooling can apply for an exemption to the 1 February 2020 COVID-19 travel restrictions applied to foreign nationals who have been in mainland China (except Hubei province). The exemptions will be considered on a case by case basis.

The Australian Department of Home Affairs has more information for students here.

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

Students will need to meet the specific requirements set out by their school and state or territory health authority. Generally speaking, unless you are told otherwise, you do not require a medical certificate.

More frequently asked questions (FAQs)

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


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: March 2020


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