I propose to take Questions Nos. 732 and 733 together.
Expert guidance on the safe reopening of Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare services during the COVID-19 pandemic was published by the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) on 29 May. The guidance recommends use of a “play pod” model, where possible, which restricts interactions between closed groups of children and adults as an alternative to social distancing, on the basis that social distancing is not possible between young children. Generally speaking the objective is to limit contact and sharing of common facilities between people in different play pods rather than to avoid all contact and sharing between play pods, as the latter will not be possible.
My officials have been working with the HPSC to produce a next version of the Guidance which will include advice on the safe interaction between schools and childcare facilities where children attend both. It is envisaged that this guidance will be available soon.
It is important to note that the HPSC Guidance and all of the reopening supports for services available on the First 5 website apply to both Early Learning and Care and School Age Childcare.