More and more day-care centres and residential care centres are having to close their doors due to rising numbers of Covid-19 infections, joining the ranks of schools and businesses struggling with the same problem.
In the week of 17 January, 13.3% of all Flemish childcare centres were closed for at least one day, Bruzz reports, and the same issue is occurring in Brussels.
More and more residential care centre staff are out sick
Residential care centres are experiencing the same issue, reports De Standaard.
“In residential care centres, an average of 10% of the staff is now out of work due to infection or quarantine,” said Margot Cloet of Zorgnet-icuro.
“In some residential care centres this even rises to 25%. The situation in hospitals is also becoming increasingly problematic. In the past week, the number of absent staff has increased by another 10%.”
Parents feeling the impact of daycare closures
Last week, the Flemish agency for growing children (Opgroeien) received 929 reports of a closure or partial closure of a care facility in Flanders or Brussels.
The numbers include childcare reception centres, group childcare facilities and after-school care providers.
Of the 382 reports from reception centres, 88% were completely closed and of the 441 reports from the group childcare facilities, 56% were closed.
“Child caretakers have a tough job and staff cuts put even more pressure on their shoulders,” said spokesperson Nele Wouters. Staff shortages have already been affecting the sector, and the pandemic has made the situation worse.
“The impact on parents is also great. They have to combine family and work, and therefore also keep their young children at home.”
Last week, 19 Dutch-speaking schools in Flanders and Brussels reported that they were closing temporarily. The previous peak was in the week of 6 December, when 12.9% of day-care centres remained closed for at least one day.
Clusters of infections lead to continued closures
The impact of the increasing number of Covid-19 cases is very tangible in the Brussels nurseries, according to Sabine Winters, director of nurseries at GO! Scholengroep Brussels.
“Of our 31 day-care centres, eight were closed for at least one day last week and nine had restricted opening hours for at least one day,” Winters said.
This week sees a similar trend occurring: already at least seven day-care centres have had to close and five have limited opening hours.
“The centres that are closed are due to infection clusters,” Winters explained. “Some day-care centres have limited opening hours due to staff cuts. In the latter category, we are trying to help parents find alternatives.”