Dr Bedford is New Zealand’s only post-graduate public health qualified expert in ECE health, and is concerned his input has not been sought in the decision-making process.
Even before the level four lockdown, Dr Bedford was desperately trying to convince officials one way to deal with the coronavirus pandemic was to close early childhood centres to all children except those for whom attendance was essential.
Children in this environment utilise the senses of touch, smell and taste to explore their world, and are constantly in close contact with each other and their teachers/carers, so trying any form of social distancing is impossible.
Dr Bedford’s research also shows that historically most centres have sick teachers teaching and sick children attending, due to inadequate sick leave provisions, which puts everyone at risk.
Fiona Devlin, an ECE teacher on the Kapiti Coast, has seen chickenpox and gastro bugs sweeping through her centre in the past, which has resulted in 3 to 4 weeks of half full classes, despite good handwashing and health actions being put in place.
“Coming into winter, which often creates a bug-fest, [the Government needs to] take it slowly [reopening early childhood centres] so the four weeks of lockdown is not wasted.”