COVID-19 Excursion Protocols, Guidelines & Checklists Frequently Asked Questions

GENERAL

What are the COVID-19 Excursion Protocols?

The National Capital Educational Tourism Project, with the support of the ACT Government, developed School Excursion COVID-19 Protocols in collaboration with the sector, for the purpose of reactivating safe local and interstate school excursions.

When were the Protocols approved?

The Protocols were approved by the ACT Health Directorate in December 2020.

What are the COVID-19 Excursion Guidelines?

The Guidelines are a user-friendly version of the Protocols.

They contain the core elements of the Protocols, but don’t include information that is not useful to Accommodation Providers, Parents/Guardians/Carers, Teachers and Tour Organisers.

Who endorses the Guidelines?

The Guidelines are endorsed by ACT Health.

What sources are cited in the Guidelines?

The Guidelines contain advice and recommendations issued by:

  • Healthdirect Australia.
  • The ACT Government.
  • The Australian Government Department of Health.
  • The Australian Government Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development & Communications.
  • The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.
  • The Centres for Disease Control & Prevention.
  • The World Health Organization.

Are we continuing to follow 2021 COVID-19 Guidelines in 2022?

No, updated Excursion Guidelines have been produced in the light of developments since 2020, following further discussions with multiple stakeholders.

Why do school children have to travel as a cohort?

Maintaining separate cohorts during travel and excursion activities mitigates the risk of COVID-19 transmission into the broader community, and allows for easier contact tracing in the event that a person on an excursion contracts COVID-19.

What is a cohort?

A cohort is defined as a group of people with shared characteristics, e.g. a year level (~100 Students) plus adults who already share a common space within a school environment.

How should a cohort travel when on an excursion?

Movement of a cohort during an excursion could, for instance, take the form of:

  1. Transportation to a venue where Students are not required to maintain 1.5 metre physical distancing within their cohort, but are required to practise physical distancing from other cohort groups and the public.
  2. Precautionary measures such as designated toilets and eating areas should be considered to ensure the cohort doesn’t mix with other cohort groups at a venue.
  3. The return journey should consist of the original cohort on board the same coach, with the same Driver used to transport the group to the venue.

How does the BCE system contact Tour Organisers and Teachers prior to an excursion?

Automatic excursion email reminders to Tour Organisers are generated 3 months, 6 weeks and 3 weeks prior to scheduled Canberra arrivals.

Automatic excursion email reminders to On-the-Day Teachers are generated 3 months and 3 weeks prior to scheduled Canberra arrivals.

23 days before an excursion starts a nominated On-the-Day Teacher is sent:

  • an email, to check if the email address supplied for them is correct
  • a text message, to check if the mobile phone number supplied for them is correct.

5 days before an excursion starts a nominated On-the-Day Teacher is sent:

  • an email, containing: a link to a declaration form which requires them to agree to undertake a number of COVID-safe actions; and 2 versions of the Personal Health Declaration (an online version and a PDF version).
  • a text message, advising them to check their inbox so they see and action the email.

TOUR ORGANISERS

Why is the BCE system contacting Teachers prior to excursions?

Information about the process for managing Personal Health Declarations is sent to On-the-Day Teachers, from 3 months before a Trip begins.

For privacy reasons it is important that Teachers only are involved in this process.

The BCE National Attractions – Terms & Conditions state:

A 3rd party making bookings on behalf of a school must:

  • provide a valid school email address when submitting bookings, and ensure this address is updated to a Teacher’s email address at least 4 months prior to an excursion’s start date
  • provide a valid school mobile number when submitting bookings, and ensure this number is updated to a Teacher’s number at least 1 month prior to an excursion’s start date.

I supply the email address given by the school, so we may have an ‘admin’ address; why is this an issue?

The On-the-Day Teacher can change close to a school’s excursion, but it is important we are able to contact Teachers from 3 months before an excursion starts, so they receive information they need to distribute to Parents/Guardians/Carers related to Personal Health Declarations (PHDs).

The main objections related to PHDs has been a lack of forewarning of the need for these to be completed for each student.

The issue with ‘admin’ email addresses is that emails sent to these addresses from the BCE system are often not actioned.

Tour Operators may have to impress on schools that if they do not supply information needed in the timeframes needed they will be putting their excursions at risk.

What happens if I don’t update On-the-Day Teacher details for existing bookings?

Tour Organisers who do not provide On-the-Day Teacher contact details in a timely manner may have their Trips and/or Bookings cancelled.

What should I do if I don’t know On-the-Day Teacher details when I’m making a new booking?

It is not expected that On-the-Day Teacher contact details will be known at the time of all new bookings.

Tour Organisers who do not know On-the-Day Teacher contact details at the time of booking should provide valid generic school details.

  • An individualised On-the-Day Teacher email address must be supplied 4 months prior to an excursion’s start date.
  • A valid On-the-Day Teacher mobile phone number must be supplied 1 month prior to an excursion’s start date.

TEACHERS

Why is the BCE system contacting Teachers prior to excursions?

Information about the process for managing Personal Health Declarations is sent to On-the-Day Teachers, from 3 months before a Trip begins.

For privacy reasons it is important that Teachers only are involved in this process.

The BCE National Attractions – Terms & Conditions state:

A school staff member making bookings on behalf of a school must:

  • provide a valid school email address when submitting bookings, and ensure this address is updated to a Teacher’s email address at least 4 months prior to an excursion’s start date
  • provide a valid school mobile number when submitting bookings, and ensure this number is updated to a Teacher’s number at least 1 month prior to an excursion’s start date.

What happens if I don’t submit an On-the-Day Teacher’s COVIDsafe Declaration?

On-the-Day Teachers who do not submit an On-the-Day Teacher’s COVIDsafe Declaration may have their Trips and/or Bookings cancelled.

Does every Teacher/Adult on an excursion have to submit an On-the-Day Teacher’s COVIDsafe Declaration?

The On-the-Day Teacher must complete a Teacher’s COVIDsafe Declaration – they receive an email with a link to the Declaration in it – others cannot complete a Teacher Declaration.

One of the things they agree to do when making the Declaration is to ‘communicate as necessary with other Teachers on the excursion’.

Must Canberra Region schools supply Personal Health Declarations for students on excursions to Canberra attractions?

Canberra Region school students do not have to have a Personal Health Declaration completed on their behalf if their excursion does not include an overnight stay, as long at the On-the-Day Teacher accompanying an excursion commits to:

  • Communicating as necessary with other Teachers on the excursion, who may be supervising cohorts visiting attractions.
  • Not allowing anyone to participate in the excursion if they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or have visited an exposure site during a designated exposure period.

How is the Canberra Region defined?

The Canberra Region boundary is defined as a radius 72 kilometres from the Canberra General Post Office, as this is the distance from the GPO to the southernmost tip of the ACT border.

The Canberra Region includes all localities with an ACT postcode, as well as postcodes 2580, 2581, 2582, 2611, 2618, 2619, 2620, 2621, 2622, 2623 and 2720.

Why is the BCE system sending me emails and SMS texts prior to excursions?

Information about the process for managing Personal Health Declarations (PHDs) will be sent to On-the-Day Teachers, from 3 months before a Trip begins.

This gives plenty of time for Teachers to contact Parents/Guardians/Carers to make them aware of the PHD process.

For privacy reasons it is important that Teachers only are involved in this process.

What is a Personal Health Declaration?

Prior to a child attending an excursion a Personal Health Declaration (PHD) must be completed by a child's Parent/Guardian/Carer, which includes a declaration of the current health status of the child.

The PHD can be submitted any time in the period 24 hours before the excursion begins.

Part of the PHD includes granting permission in circumstances of Public Health Unit (PHU) engagement, for a child to undergo testing for COVID-19 in accordance with PHU directives and State/Territory management guidelines, under the supervision of an accompanying Teacher.

All PHDs and the information they contain are to be collected and managed by the child’s school in accordance with privacy requirements.

How do I monitor the Personal Health Declaration forms sent to Parents/Guardians/Carers, to see if they have been completed?

Teachers can either:

1.    Send Parents a link to an online form, which when submitted goes to the Teacher's inbox; or

2.    Send a link to a PDF, which is able to be:
a.    completed electronically then either emailed to the Teacher or printed off and handed to the Teacher; or
b.    printed, completed manually, then handed to the Teacher.

Do Teachers and other adults have to complete Personal Health Declarations?

Personal Health Declarations have to be completed for any student under 16.

People over 16 must sign into Canberra venues using the Check In CBR App or another approved method.

Does the Personal Health Declaration still need to be completed?

Yes, however the 2022 Personal Health Declaration form has changed slightly.

Do I have to show Personal Health Declaration forms every place we visit?

You don’t have to show the forms anywhere.

The forms are important as they are declarations of the health of children when an excursion commences, and they give consent for COVID-19 testing if that is necessary, however for privacy reasons only the On-the-Day Teacher should have access to submitted forms.

On-the-Day Teachers should have access to the Personal Health Declarations for the duration of an excursion.

How long should Teachers hold completed Personal Health Declaration forms after an excursion is finished?

Teachers do not have to retain Personal Health Declaration forms after an excursion is finished.

What if a Student has had COVID-19 in the past 30 days?

If a Student has had COVID-19 and completed a required isolation period their Parent/Guardian/Carer should complete a standard Personal Health Declaration form for them.

If we have had cases at school does this make it an ‘exposure site’, and does this mean no students can travel to the ACT?

We utilise the strict definition of an exposure site as designated by a State or Territory government and published as such.

For instance, the ACT government no longer publishes exposure locations that a COVID-19 positive person has attended, however other jurisdictions may choose to publish these.

Can people who are not Teachers accompany a school excursion?

Transmission of COVID-19 between children and from children to adults is uncommon, however adults who have not been specifically requested to fulfil a necessary function/role – e.g. part of a mandatory adult:student ratio, or an essential carer to a student – should be excluded from the excursion to minimise risk.

Do all Students on excursions have to be vaccinated?

No, but it is recommended that all Students aged 5 years old and above are vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to attending a school excursion (unless a medical exemption prevents them from being vaccinated) to reduce the risk of them becoming infected and introducing the virus into the community.

Do only over 16-year-olds need to be vaccinated?

No, but it is recommended that all Students aged 5 years old and above are vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to attending a school excursion (unless a medical exemption prevents them from being vaccinated) to reduce the risk of them becoming infected and introducing the virus into the community.

Do Students need vaccination certificates?

No, but it is recommended that all Students aged 5 years old and above are vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to attending a school excursion (unless a medical exemption prevents them from being vaccinated) to reduce the risk of them becoming infected and introducing the virus into the community.

Are Students who are not vaccinated excluded from excursions?

No, but it is recommended that all Students aged 5 years old and above are vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to attending a school excursion (unless a medical exemption prevents them from being vaccinated) to reduce the risk of them becoming infected and introducing the virus into the community.

Do all adults on excursions need to be to be vaccinated?

Yes, all frontline vaccine-eligible adults – such as Teachers, Drivers, attraction staff and accommodation staff – should be fully vaccinated before coming into contact with a school excursion cohort, in line with the AHPPC's advice related to reducing the opportunities for the virus to enter school populations

Does proof of vaccination need to show on entry to an attraction?

No, however:

  • All frontline vaccine-eligible adults – such as Teachers – should be fully vaccinated before coming into contact with a school excursion cohort, in line with advice related to reducing the opportunities for the virus to enter school populations.

Do Teachers/Students need to show proof of a recent negative test?

No, however, prior to attending an excursion all attendees should undertake COVID-19 testing, consistent with school policies.

Is testing done by a Rapid Antigen Test (through the school) or via a local testing clinic?

Testing should be done consistent with school policies.

Does testing have to occur before departure and on arrival?

Prior to attending an excursion all attendees should undertake COVID-19 testing, consistent with school policies.

It is not expected that attendees will undertake COVID-19 testing on arrival in Canberra.

Can close contacts attend Canberra trips?

If a child a close contact of someone who has COVID-19 they  should not take part in an excursion and medical advice should be sought.

What happens when students test positive before leaving – is every student and teacher potentially listed as a close contact?

If any Teacher, Parent/Guardian/Carer or child due to attend an excursion tests positive they should be excluded from the cohort and isolated.

The Australian Government Department of Health website states you are a close contact if you:

  • live in the same house as someone who tests positive
  • spent 4 hours or longer with someone in a home, or health or aged care environment
  • are determined as one by your State or Territory health department.

Where there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in a school environment schools should contact the National Coronavirus Helpline (1800 020 080 – operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) for advice.

Do Teachers/Students have to wear masks?

Mask wearing should be consistent with ACT Government mandates and recommendations related to school environment.

It is recommended that Teachers, accompanying adults and attraction employees should protect themselves and others by wearing well-fitted face masks while at attractions.

Wearing a mask is not dependent on whether an individual is vaccinated or mandated by public health orders.

While mask wearing requirements have eased, the Canberra community is strongly encouraged to continue to wear a face mask when entering public indoor settings where it could be difficult to maintain physical distancing.

What procedures are in place when a Teacher or Student is required to isolate?

If a Teacher or Student becomes a suspected COVID-19 case during a school excursion or is experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (fever, cough, sore throat or lethargy), they should be isolated from the cohort in an appropriate space – if the person quarantined separately is a child they must be supervised by a Teacher.

Standard precautions should be adopted when providing care / first aid to a person suspected of having COVID-19.

Teachers should contact the Australian Capital Territory COVID-19 Helpline (ACT COVID-19 Helpline) and the National Coronavirus Helpline for advice and comply with all directives given by the ACT COVID-19 Helpline, then contact the National Capital Educational Tourism Project.

ACT COVID-19 Helpline directives may include advice that children in their cohort should be tested for COVID-19 and remain quarantined at the accommodation where they are staying until results are known.

What happens if a Student tests positive on tour?

If anyone on an excursion tests positive the ACT Public Health Unit will advise on quarantine options.

Teachers will remain with their cohort and maintain duty of care in contact with Parents/Guardians/Carers.

Teachers should create a list of potential close contacts.

A Parent/Guardian/Carer will be able to come to Canberra and isolate with their child.

All venues visited will be notified, under the direction of the ACT Public Health Unit, with the support of the National Capital Educational Tourism Project.

Can a school return home if there is a positive case on tour?

Yes, however if a school wishes to return home following the determination of a positive test they must contact their State or Territory health department before travel and heed advice provided to them.

How long should schools hold records of the composition of  cohorts after an excursion is finished?

Information regarding the composition of a cohort as it moves through Canberra should be stored by schools for 28 days, in accordance with ACT Health policy.

PARENTS/GUARDIANS/CARERS

How do I submit a Personal Health Declaration to a Teacher?

The easiest and most secure way to submit a Personal Health Declaration to a Teacher is to click the link to the online form that the Teacher should send you in an email.

You can alternatively fill in a PDF and email that to the Teacher by following the following instructions.

To fill in the Personal Health Declaration PDF form on an Apple device:

  1. Download Adobe Acrobat Reader.
  2. Click the link to the Personal Health Declaration PDF form – available at the BCE Help Documents page or linked to from within an email you have received.
  3. Click ‘OPEN IN…’ at the bottom right of the screen.
  4. Click ‘Import to Acrobat’.
  5. Click ‘Import to Acrobat’ again.
  6. Fill in the form.
  7. When you are finished filling in the form click the 'Upload' symbol – at the top right of your screen.
  8. Click ‘Share a copy’.
  9. Click ‘Mail’.
  10. Put the On-the-Day Teacher’s email address in the ‘To:’ field.
  11. Send the email.

What if a Student has had COVID-19 in the past 30 days?

If a Student has had COVID-19 and completed a required isolation period their Parent/Guardian/Carer should complete a standard Personal Health Declaration form for them.

What procedures are in place when a Teacher or Student is required to isolate?

If a Teacher or Student becomes a suspected COVID-19 case during a school excursion or is experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (fever, cough, sore throat or lethargy), they should be isolated from the cohort in an appropriate space – if the person quarantined separately is a child they must be supervised by a Teacher.

What happens if a Student tests positive on tour?

If anyone on an excursion tests positive the ACT Public Health Unit will advise on quarantine options.

Teachers will remain with their cohort and maintain duty of care in contact with Parents/Guardians/Carers.

Teachers should create a list of potential close contacts.

A Parent/Guardian/Carer will be able to come to Canberra and isolate with their child.

All venues visited will be notified, under the direction of the ACT Public Health Unit, with the support of the National Capital Educational Tourism Project.