Updated Interim Guidance on the use of Face Coverings in Childcare and Educational Settings was published by the HSE's Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) on 30 November 2021. In line with this guidance, a notice was issued by my Department on 1 December to the Early Learning and Care (ELC) and School-Age Childcare (SAC) sector, including childminders. The notice confirms that at this point in time there is no change in the public health guidance on adults wearing masks in ELC/SAC settings: staff members, parents and visitors should all wear face masks/coverings when not caring for children and where social distancing is not possible.
As per guidance from the HPSC, the wearing of face coverings in ELC and SAC services is recommended for adults when it is not possible to keep a 2m distance from other adults. Staff are also advised to wear a face covering when in close proximity to children if doing so does not pose a barrier to early learning and care. HPSC guidance specifically notes that it is expected that use of face coverings will generally be practical when attending to school-age children. This aligns with the approach in schools.
It is acknowledged that some staff may feel safer wearing a mask at all times, especially at a time of high levels of infection in the community.
My Department is keeping public health guidance, including on wearing of face coverings, under review with the HSE and will provide updates as required.