Coronavirus and Early Years

There are lots of articles and advice out there in relation to the new coronavirus strain, COVID-19.
Our aim is to provide you with as much information, advice and helpful links,  that are available at the time of publishing, in this one place. We will look at what COVID-19 is, where it originated, the symptoms, the implications for children, advice on the prevention of spreading the virus and what to do if you think you may have contracted the virus.

To make it easier for you to navigate this page we have created an index, simply click on the item from the following list and you will navigate to that subject

There are separate pages within this special section we have created for supporting you during this time and these include:

  • Latest news: this will be updated daily with the news and links as provided by the Government and various departments; we will not be including news articles from newspapers or other publications
  • Sector contacts: details of the larger membership groups in the early years sector and links to their information pages
  • guidance to critical sectors & key workers: summary of the document and link to read in full
  • Early years buddy scheme: an application form to take part in the scheme set up to connect individuals from early years, NHS, emergency services and parents in order to have someone to talk to
  • Resources for children: links to resources you can either download directly from our website or from external websites, plus film clips and details of any schemes in place that can support children either in the home or setting
  • Resources for practitioners & parents: Initiatives, film clips, guides, documents etc. to support you either in the setting or at home
  • Kate Moxley - Look after yourself: a special article from Kate Moxley, early years trainer and consultant and approved Mental Health First Aid England Instructor who specialises in wellbeing and mental health training
  • Penny's diary: Retired early years expert, Penny Webb has been forced to self-isolate due to health issues and is sharing her personal diary and journey with us in the hope it will help others
Key Facts
The Government is aware of the importance for Childcare Providers to remain open
and at this stage does not intend to force closures at this stage
If someone attending or having attended the Childcare Provision is confirmed as having the virus
will not usually require the setting to close.
The decision will depend on local factors
To prevent the spreading of the coronavirus the NHS is advising that you should
wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser,
cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
and to avoid close contact with people who are unwell (suggested distance is a minimum of two metres)
If you start experiencing symptoms such as a temperature / fever or a new and persistant cough,
you should stay at home (self-isolate) for 7 days
For most people coronavirus COVID-19 causes mild flu-like symptoms and you can expect to make a full recovery,
it can, however, by dangerous to the elderly and those with existing health problems.
Face masks are not recommended by Public Health England (PHE), the NHS or the World Health Organisation (WHO)
because there is no solid evidence they work

Department for Education Coronavirus Helpline

The Department for Education has launced a dedicated helpline for Early Years Providers, Childcare Provisions, Schools and Colleges who have specific questions about coronavirus:

Tel: 0800 046 8687

The line is also available to parents, carers and young people

Alternatively, you can email them on:

What is coronavirus? What is COVID-19?
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new strain that was discovered in 2019 and has not been previously identified in humans.

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans. (Source: World Health Organisation)

Where did it come from?
The source of the coronavirus is believed to be a "wet market" in Wuhan, China,  which typically sold both dead and live animals including fish and birds. Hygiene standards at these types of markets are difficult to maintain as live animals are being kept and butchered on site and they are typically densely packed and as a result of this type of environment there is a heightened risk of viruses jumping from animals to humans.

At such markets, outdoor stalls are squeezed together to form narrow lanes; locals and visitors shop for cuts of meat and ripe produce putting people, live and dead animals in close proximity which makes it easy for zoonatic diseases to jump from animals to people.

The actual 'animal source' has not been identified but the original host is thought to be bats, although bats were not sold at the Wuhan market it is possible that they may have infected the live chickens or other animals sold there.

The outbreak was first identified in December 2019 and initially the bulk of the cases was confined to China, but the virus is now spreading rapidly and cases have been reported in numerous countries as the map below indicates (countries and regions with reported cases are shown in blue)

The symptoms
Common signs of infection include:

  • fever / high temperature
  • dry cough
  • feeling tired
  • breathing difficulties / shortness of breath (in more severe cases)

The World Health Organisation advises that "some patients may aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually and some people become infected but don't develop any symptons and don't feel unwell."  These symptoms are similar to other respiratory diseases including flu and the common cold.

Current evidence indicates that most cases appear to be mild and those that have developed more serious symptoms appear to have had pre-existing health conditions. Older people, people with weakened immune systems and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, cancer, chronic lung disease, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable and can suffer more severe symptoms and/or become severely ill with the virus.

Children and COVID-19
Based on the current available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for contracting COVID-19 and while some children and infants have been sick with the virus, adults make up most of the known cases to date. The symptoms are similar in children and adults, however, children with a confirmed diagnosis have generally presented with milder symptoms.

Based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk for COVID-19 than adults. While some children and infants have been sick with COVID-19, adults make up most of the known cases to date.

How long does it take for the symptoms to develop?
The “incubation period” means the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease. Most estimates of the incubation period for COVID-19 range from 1-14 days, most commonly around five days. These estimates will be updated as more data become available.
(Source: World Health Organisation)

How does it spread?
Coronavirus is spread mainly from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which spread when the a person with the virus coughs, sneezes or exhales. You can either inhale these droplets if you are close enough or if they have landed on objects or surfaces around the person, you can catch it by coming into contact with the objects or surfaces and then touching your face, eyes, nose or mouth.

Studies to date show that it is unlikely that the virus is transmitted through the air and also the risk of catching it from a person who is not showing symptoms at all is very low. However, many people with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms and this is particularly true in the early stages of the disease, so therefore it is possible to catch it from someone who has, for example, just a mild cough and does not feel ill.
(Source: World Health Organisation)
Note: The World Health Organisation is continually assessing ongoing research on the ways the virus is transmitted and will continue to share updated findings.

The NHS advice is as follows:

Wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
Always wash your hand when you get home or into work 

Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze

Dispose of used tissues in the bin immediately and then wash your hands

If you don't have a tissue, use your sleeve (not your hands!)

Avoid close contact with people who are unwell (suggested distance is a minimum of two metres)

Some additional tips

  • Be careful about touching 'things' and then touching your face in public transport systems and other busy public places
  • Do not share snacks from packets, cartons or bowls that other people are dipping their fingers into
  • Avoid shaking hands or cheek kissing, especially if you suspect viruses are circulating
  • Carry hand sanitiser with you at all times to make frequent cleaning of your hands easy
  • Always wash your hands before you eat or touch your face
  • Carry disposable tissues with you at all times so you can cover your nose or mouth if you cough or sneeze, then as per the guidelines above, dispose of the used tissue carefully
  • Regularly clean commonly used surfaces and devices you touch or handle
  • Do not share cups, cutlery, drink cans, drinking bottles, toothbrushes or anything else that comes into contact with the mouth

At home / indoors

  • Keep air circulating by opening a window or turning on fan, these will help disperse any droplets and can keep you from getting a heavy dose
  • Use a humidifier, if the protective membranes in your nose dry out it will make them less effective as they try to keep the pathogens out; using a humidifier will keep the humidity up and prevent the membranes from drying out.
  • Give everyone their own towel, the virus can be spread by sharing towels, so to prevent this give everyone their own towel for use when bathing.
  • Use Paper towels for drying hands,  these can then be disposed of directly into a bin
  • Use bin liners to prevent coming into contact with discarded tissues and paper towels. The bin liner should then be placed in a further bag and set aside for 72 hours before being disposed of in the general waste

How long does the virus stay on surfaces? 
It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

It is with this in mind that we need to consider the various surfaces that we encounter on a regular basis and in the case of a childcare setting, the toys and equipment

  • 'Hard' surfaces i.e. worktops, chairs, tables, shelves, light switches, door knobs, cabinet handles, phones, toys (not wooden unless treated so they are non-porous) etc. - these should be regularly cleaned and disinfected; it is also good practice when it is a 'shared' area to encourage hand washing after contact.
  • 'Porous' surfaces i.e. untreated wood, cardboard, paper etc. - as there are indications that the virus can survive on these surfaces for several hours and even days and as they are hard to clean, hand washing or using hand sanitiser is recommended straight after handling any of these substances and especially before you touch your face or eat
  • 'Soft' surfaces and fabrics i.e. furnishings, toys, clothing and bedding etc. - all of these, where possible, should be regularly washed according to the manufacturers instructions using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry thoroughly. If they are handled by different people in-between washes, then hand washing or sanitising should be encouraged after use and before touching your face or eating
  • Sand and other play materials - sand is known for absorbing bacteria but there have been many reports of over the years of infections being caught from beaches so the recommendation would be that during and after contact with sand and other play materials it is best practice again to wash or sanitise your hands before touching the face or eating
  • Water - although scientists are still debating whether or not the coronavirus is airborne in the true sense of the word as it is reported that it can only travel around 2 metres, technically speaking this is open to interpretation as to whether this it is truly airborne, however this would indicate that the virus is not transmitted via water.

If you have any information or can provide links to articles where there are guidelines to these or any other surfaces,
please post in the comments at the bottom of this article.

How to wash your hands
The main advice for prevention is washing your hands and so this article would be incomplete without addressing this and
providing you with some of the hints and tips to get children to wash their hands.

Please see, below, the instructions provided by the NHS - How to wash your hands:
Instructions: You should wash your hands for the amount of time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice (around 20 seconds):

How to wash your hands NHS song | NHS
A child friendly song explaining how to wash your hands.

Early Years Experts Take Action with Action Hands
Action Hands is a new campaign to teach children about coronavirus and promote positive wellbeing in schools and at home. The brains behind this new campaign is
Amanda Frolich AKA Action Amanda of Amanda's Action Club and Sara Brennan, Founder and Director of London Nursery Schools.

Hot off the press, here is Amanda's Wash Your Hands Song.

What to do if you have symptoms
Source: NHS/Corona advice

Stay at home for 7 days if you have either:

  • a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  • a new, continuous cough – this means you've started coughing repeatedly

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

  • You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you're staying at home.
  • Testing for coronavirus is not needed if you're staying at home.

Urgent advice: Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service if: 

  • you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home
  • your condition gets worse
  • your symptoms do not get better after 7 days

Tips for staying at home
Source: NHS/Stay at home advice

It's important to stay at home to stop coronavirus spreading.


  • try to keep at least 2 metres (3 steps) from other people in your home, particularly older people or those with long-term health conditions
  • ask friends and family and delivery services to deliver things like food shopping and medicines – but avoid contact with them
  • sleep alone if possible
  • regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds
  • try to stay away from older people and those with long-term health conditions
  • drink plenty of water and take everyday painkillers, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, to help with your symptoms


  • have visitors (ask people to leave deliveries outside)
  • leave the house, for example to go for a walk, to school or public places

For further tips and advice for staying at home please visit the webpage - Stay at home: guidance for people with confirmed or possible coronavirus

Explaining and talking to children about coronavirus
Source: UNICEF
Tips for having age appropriate discussions to reassure and protect children.

  • Focus on communicating good health behaviours, such as covering coughs and sneezes with the elbow and washing hands.
  • Develop a way to track how children are washing their hands and find ways to reward them for frequent/timely hand washing.
  • Use puppets or dolls to demonstrate symptoms (sneezing, coughing, fever), what to do if children feel sick (like if their head hurts, their stomach hurts, or if they feel hot or extra tired), and how to comfort someone who is sick (cultivating empathy and safe caring behaviours).
  • When it’s circle time, have children sit farther apart from one another by practicing stretching their arms out or ‘flapping their wings’ – they should keep enough space between each other so that they are not touching their friends.

Further Articles:

Employee & Employer Information
Source: Acas
Note: We are checking the Acas website on a daily basis to see if there any updates on this advice and will update as appropriate.

In case coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads more widely in the UK, employers should consider some simple steps to help protect the health and safety of staff.

It's good practice for employers to:

  • keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace
  • make sure everyone's contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date
  • make sure managers know how to spot symptoms of coronavirus and are clear on any relevant processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, and procedures in case someone in
  • the workplace shows symptoms of the virus
  • make sure there are clean places to wash hands with hot water and soap, and encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly
  • provide hand sanitiser and tissues for staff, and encourage them to use them
  • reconsider any travel to affected areas

Employers must not single anyone out. For example, they must not treat an employee differently because of their race or ethnicity.

Self-isolation and sick pay
Employees and workers must receive any Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) due to them if they need to self-isolate because:

  • they have coronavirus
  • they have coronavirus symptoms, for example a high temperature or new continuous cough
  • they've been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111

Employers might offer more than SSP – 'contractual' sick pay. Find out more about sick pay.

If an employee or worker cannot work, they should tell their employer:

  • as soon as possible
  • the reason
  • how long they're likely to be off for

The employer might need to be flexible if they require evidence from the employee or worker. For example, someone might not be able to provide a sick note ('fit note') if they've been told to self-isolate for more than 7 days.

If someone returns from an affected area
Anyone returning from an affected area, for example China or Italy, should self-isolate and either:

Their employer should pay them Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or contractual sick pay while they're in self-isolation and cannot work.

If an employee is not sick but the employer tells them not to come to work
If an employee is not sick but their employer tells them not to come to work, they should get their usual pay.

If an employee needs time off work to look after someone
Employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them (a 'dependant') in an unexpected event or emergency. This would apply to situations to do with coronavirus. For example:

  • if they have children they need to look after or arrange childcare for because their school has closed
  • to help their child or another dependant if they're sick, or need to go into isolation or hospita

There's no statutory right to pay for this time off, but some employers might offer pay depending on the contract or workplace policy.
The amount of time off an employee takes to look after someone must be reasonable for the situation. For example, they might take 2 days off to start with, and if more time is needed, they can book holiday.
Find out more about time off for dependants.

If an employee does not want to go to work
Some people might feel they do not want to go to work if they're afraid of catching coronavirus.

An employer should listen to any concerns staff may have.

If there are genuine concerns, the employer must try to resolve them to protect the health and safety of their staff. For example, if possible, the employer could offer flexible working.

If an employee still does not want to go in, they may be able to arrange with their employer to take the time off as holiday or unpaid leave. The employer does not have to agree to this.

If an employee refuses to attend work, it could result in disciplinary action.

Find out more about absence from work.

If someone becomes unwell at work
If someone becomes unwell in the workplace with coronavirus symptoms, they should:

  • get at least 2 metres (7 feet) away from other people
  • go to a room or area behind a closed door, such as a sick bay or staff office
  • avoid touching anything
  • cough or sneeze into a tissue and put it in a bin, or if they do not have tissues, cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow
  • use a separate bathroom from others, if possible

The unwell person should either:

It’s best for the unwell person to use their own mobile phone or computer to access these services.

If someone with coronavirus comes to work
If someone with coronavirus comes to work, the workplace does not necessarily have to close.

The local Public Health England (PHE) health protection team will get in contact with the employer to:

  • discuss the case
  • identify people who have been in contact with the affected person
  • carry out a risk assessment
  • advise on any actions or precautions to take

Find out more about PHE health protection teams on GOV.UK.

The process may be different in Scotland and Wales. For more advice, see:

If the employer needs to close the workplace
An employer may want to plan in case they need to close the workplace temporarily. For example, making sure staff have a way to communicate with the employer and other people they work with.

Working from home
Where work can be done at home, the employer could:

  • ask staff who have work laptops or mobile phones to take them home so they can carry on working
  • arrange paperwork tasks that can be done at home for staff who do not work on computers

Find out more about homeworking.

Lay-offs and short-time working
In some situations, an employer might need to close down their business for a short time. Unless it says in the contract or is agreed otherwise, they still need to pay their employees for this time.

If the employer thinks they'll need to do this, it's important to talk with staff as early as possible and throughout the closure.

Find out more about lay-offs and short-time working.

Using holiday
Employers have the right to tell employees and workers when to take holiday if they need to. For example, they can decide to shut for a week and everyone has to use their holiday entitlement.
If the employer does decide to do this, they must tell staff at least twice as many days before as the amount of days they need people to take. For example, if they want to close for 5 days, they should tell everyone at least 10 days before.

This could affect holiday staff have already booked or planned. So employers should:

  • explain clearly why they need to close
  • try and resolve anyone’s worries about how it will affect their holiday entitlement or plans

Are you covered by Insurance?

On the 4th March the Government registered Coronavirus COVID-19 as a 'notifiable disease'
Registering Covid-19 on the Government's list of notifiable diseases allows businesses to seek compensation if they are affected by the coronavirus.

Despite this move, childcare providers will need to check the small print in their insurance policy documents to see if they are covered; most insurance companies will not pay out as most policies do not include cover for notifiable diseases or only some of them.

In our 'open letter' to Schools Minister, Nick Gibbs and Children and Families Minister, Vicky Ford as published on 15th March, we have cited this as one of the reasons that the Early Years sector needs: 

  • the Government to consider us for the same relief as is being offered to other small businesses in the retail and hospitality sectors
  • reassurance that funding will be made available to support the sector
  • unequivocal guidance being made available, either in the terms of policy or via an advisory source, for example a DfE helpline to cover such things as ratios, SSP entitlement, closures and support for frontline workers

In conjuction with this published 'open letter, we have also created a petition and we need 100,000 signatures in order to get these matters discussed in Parliament, so please support us and sign the petition:

The Early Years Sector needs support from the Government during the #CoronavirusPandemic

The NDNA and insurance partner Pound Gates  joint statement to clarify the situation regarding insurance in the event of a closure as a result of COVID-19.
Wednesday 4th March 2020
"Today (Wednesday 4 March) the Department for Health and Social Care said it will register COVID-19 as a notifiable disease. Pound Gates logo
However, this does not change the situation for many nursery businesses because insurance companies will only pay out on listed specified diseases.
NDNA’s Head of Policy Jonathan Broadbery said: “Following this announcement from the Government nurseries should check the wording of their policies because it will not affect the situation unless all ‘notifiable diseases’ are covered. “The Government still needs to factor in the potential cost of nursery closures as a result of public health advice, staff shortages due to illness and deep cleaning bills into their contingency planning. We will continue to push for these to be recognised.” 
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We want to ensure any steps taken to protect the public during the COVID-19 outbreak are proportionate and do not come at an unnecessary social or economic cost.
Read the Full Article

In an article by Nursery World on Tuesday 3rd March, it was reported that childcare settings may not be covered by insurance if they are forced to close to contain the spread of coronavirus. Read the Nursery Word Article

Note: We will continue to update this section as and when we receive further information

What is a 'notifiable disease?'

A notifiable disease is one which that has to be reported to the government authorities as required by law. The registered medical practitioners shall notify such diseases in a proper form within 3 days, or notify verbally via phone within 24 hours depending on the urgency of the situation.

For a current list of notifiable diseases please visit the GOV.UK dedicated webpage

Note: It is not the responsibility of you as the early years provider to report instances of these diseases to Public Health England, but that of the registered medical practitioner as noted above, however if any diagnosis is confirmed by a Health Professional, then you do need to report it to Ofsted.

Myth Busters
Source: World Health Organisation

Useful links / Public Health England: Coronavirus (COVID-19) - what you need to know / Public Health: Number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and risk in the UK / Department for Education: COVID-19: guidance for educational settings / Business and Industry: COVID-19: guidance for employees, employers and businesses

World Health Organisation: Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19)

World Health Organisation: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public

Scroll to Top