Australia’s largest childcare provider, Goodstart Early Learning, has made it mandatory for all staff at its Victorian centers to wear masks.
Goodstart confirmed the move to NCA NewsWire on Friday after Victoria’s acting Chief Medical Officer Ben Cowie recently recommended that masks be made mandatory for employees working in early childhood education services.
“Goodstart is constantly reviewing its safe Covid practices and the rising number of cases, a significant increase in cases across our teams, and the Chief Medical Officer’s strong recommendation to wear masks indoors all influenced our decision,” Goodstart said in a statement.
“Masks are now worn by all of our teams at the center (unless they have a medical exemption or are not teaching) and we have asked parents to also wear masks during disembarkation and disembarkation.
“While none of us will be thrilled about a return to wearing masks, they are an important part of keeping our children, teams and our families as safe as possible. This is especially important as children under the age of five are generally not vaccinated against Covid.”
The child care provider said it would review the mask mandate once health advice changes.
But his teachers are exempt from this requirement if they are actively teaching and a clear pronunciation or visibility of their mouth is necessary.
This means that employees are allowed to take off their masks during training to promote children’s oral language development.
Vaccines are also still required for Goodstart employees.
This comes after Mr Cowie recommended bringing back mask-wearing requirements under certain conditions during a meeting with Victorian Health Minister Mary Ann Thomas earlier this month.
Documents that were released this week in Mr Cowie’s official health advice showed that preschool staff were included in the recommendation.
“I acknowledge that face mask requirements are not universally supported in society and the minister may consider other means to achieve higher levels of mask use,” he said.
Ms Thomas said last week that she rejected Mr Cowie’s advice, instead the government “strongly recommended” that masks be worn indoors and in public places.
“The advice of the Chief Medical Officer was to make it mandatory to wear masks in preschools and schools, as well as in retail and some hospitality establishments for workers in these areas,” she said.
“I have made the decision, based on the advice I have received, that the continued mandatory wearing of masks is not the most effective way to communicate the importance of wearing masks.
“We need to empower Victorians to make their own decisions.”
This comes after a letter signed by the heads of the public, independent and Catholic education sectors of Victoria was sent to parents on Monday evening, instructing students to wear masks indoors.
“We are asking all students ages eight and over, and all staff at all schools across Victoria, to wear masks in the classroom (except when mask removal is necessary for clear communication) from now until the end of winter.” it says.
Originally published as Goodstart Early Learning employees are required to wear masks in Victoria