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 Friday, 29 May. The guidance recommends use of a “play pod” model 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.
On 5 June, my Department launched a range of online resources and guidance to support service providers, practitioners and parents to prepare for the reopening of Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare settings, including childminders. The Guidance for Reopening webpage is available on the First 5 website: https://first5.gov.ie/practitioners/reopening. The resources provided on the site include FAQs for providers in which it is specifically noted that separate sessions may be operated in the same space at different times so long as the space is cleaned between sessions and toys are not shared by different groups / play pods.