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Fears of nursery workers carrying on in coronavirus lockdown

'You do try to tell them ‘not too much cuddles’ – it doesn’t work'

18 January, 2021 — By Harry Taylor

A NURSERY manager has called for staff to be a priority for the Covid-19 vaccination as the government told providers to stay open despite the closure of schools.

Some centres have seen a drop in numbers since the new national lockdown was announced, while a handful have closed temporarily due to coronavirus outbreaks among staff.

Private nurseries that have seen fewer children attending face financial trouble through a loss of income. Camden Council has said only key workers’ children and vulnerable children can attend the nurseries it runs.

Fillicia Elliott

Fillicia Elliott, the manager of Littlehaven Nursery in Castlehaven Road said: “I’m worried about any staff members or children catching Covid because we’ll have to close. I’m optimistic that the government will put nursery staff as a priority – just like they’ve put NHS staff as priority – because that would help us with making sure that we’re all safe.”

She added: “We’re not able to distance or shield from the children and if you’ve got an asymptomatic child they can spread the virus. It would help reassure staff.”

Salwa Duncan, the manager at Caversham Nursery in Caversham Road, Kentish Town, said: “We are operating as business as usual for all children, but our numbers aren’t as crazy or busy as before lockdown. Parents are shielding, some of them prefer to keep children at home.” She said staff members are wearing gloves, face masks and aprons where possible, but that social distancing with children was difficult. Regular cleaning takes place, children sit apart when eating and have their own trays for “messy play” whereas before they would share a table.

“If you are working in other professions, you can work in PPE [personal protective equipment] and keep your distance away from anyone you’re working with, but when it comes to early years you’re working with children of 14 months to four years you can’t social distance,” said Ms Duncan.

“They want their cuddles. You do try to tell them ‘not too much cuddles’, it doesn’t work. I do feel for my staff members, but what we can do? They’ve said we have to stay open and we are trying our best. It’s worrying times for everyone.

“The staff here are great and everyone’s trying to do their best and I’m trying to keep their morale up. We clean like crazy every hour, everything gets sterilised as we go throughout the day.”

Ms Duncan is pregnant with her baby due next month. She’s worried about the chance of getting sick and the impact of that on her baby – although the NHS has said there’s no evidence that pregnant women are more likely to get seriously ill from Covid.

A Camden Council spokesperson said: “[Our] early years and childcare services, including our children’s centres, nurseries and childminders remain open. “However, due to high staff absences including Covid-19 related sickness, places are currently being prioritised for vulnerable children and children of critical workers.”

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