Havering’s nurseries, preschools and playgroups are warning that parents may be left without childcare when they eventually return to work if they do not receive more support.
Early years providers, who care for children from birth to age five, are still being told to stay open to all families despite schools being closed to most children.
While many of the borough’s providers do want to stay open, they are taking a big financial hit and say they need on-site Covid tests and priority vaccines to keep their staff safe.
The number of early years providers across the country reporting Covid cases has risen from zero on 1 June last year to 1,267 on 4 January.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Emma Reynolds of Scallywags Day Nursery said that early years providers were ineligible for most emergency Covid grants.
She said: “I closed for three months (at the start of the pandemic) and lost about £70,000. That’s why we are happy we can stay open but, on the other hand, we are anxious for our staff.
“I have had five staff test positive for Covid since November. If staff keep getting sick we won’t have enough to stay open."
Rebecca Jeffries, from Fairytales Playgroup in Rainham, said the number of children attending has plummeted during lockdown, as many parents are furloughed or working from home.
“It’s had a massive financial impact... A lot of us don’t know how we’re going to survive. We’re not the only playgroup who has had to reduce," she said.
Robert Benham, the council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for education, children and families, said Havering Council was sympathetic to providers’ situation.
He said: “We know how tough it has been for early years providers during the Covid-19 pandemic and how uncertain everything is at the moment.
“We are continuing to support them with a number of packages and have been on hand to help them get access to what they need at this time."
A Department for Education spokesperson said “current evidence” suggested children under five “are less susceptible to infection”, justifying the decision to keep early years open.
They added: “We encourage local authorities to prioritise appropriate testing for early years staff through their community testing programmes as they are being established.
“We are funding nurseries as usual and, where nurseries do see a drop in income from either parent-paid fees or income from DfE, they are able to use the furlough scheme.”