Children have rarely been the person who brought COVID-19 into a household when household spread has happened. Children seem more likely than adults to have no symptoms or to have mild disease. Symptoms in children include cough, fever, runny nose, sore throat, diarrhoea and vomiting. It is important for parents and for those who deliver early learning and care and school-age childcare to accept that no interpersonal activity is without risk of transmission of the virus. However public health advice is that reopening is appropriate.
- If your child does not feel well.
If your child has symptoms of viral respiratory disease, even if they are mild, they must not attend a childcare setting. Likewise parents who have respiratory symptoms must not take their child to a setting or pick them up. Parents must not take their child to a childcare setting if a parent or anyone else in your home is suspected of having or known to have Covid-19. If your child becomes ill while attending a childcare setting, you must collect them as quickly as possible, contact your GP straight away and follow HSE advice
- Parents may be asked to complete a declaration.
Parents may be asked to make a verbal or written declaration on returning their child to a setting after an absence to confirm that they have no reason to believe the child has infectious disease and have followed all medical and public health advice they have received with respect to exclusion of the child from childcare services.Requiring assurances/certification from medical practitioners prior to attendance at childcare or prior to return to childcare after an absence is not appropriate as it places an unnecessary demand on the healthcare system and there is no reason to expect it to increase the safety of childcare services.
- Is it safe for children to return to childcare?
Settings have implemented a number of measures to limit the risk of infection including measures to prevent the virus being brought into the setting and to reduce the chance of spread of the virus in case it is inadvertently brought into the setting. They will focus on ensuring appropriate infection prevention and control. In this regard, it is important that settings and parents follow advice of the Health Prevention Surveillance Centre (HPSC). Settings will focus on the following in particular:
- hand-washing and ensuring that children learn good hand-washing techniques
- respiratory hygiene and ensuring that children learn good techniques
- ensuring good cleaning procedures in settings
- washing toys regularly
- spending more time outside with the children
- grouping children together in smaller groups with the same staff members (‘play-pods’)
Settings will continue to safeguard children’s needs for physical care and ensure that they all feel safe, that they belong and enjoy their experience. Social distancing between staff and children is not required within ‘play-pods’ and staff will continue to comfort and cuddle children as normal.
- When can children return to childcare?
The Government Roadmap for Reopening Society and the Economy allows for the phased reopening of early learning and care and school-age childcare services, including childminders, from 29th June. Whilst initially the Roadmap indicated that services would resume only for the children of essential workers, this has since been widened. Subject to local capacity, you may access childcare from 29th June if you meet any of the following criteria:
- You are a frontline worker,
- Your child had a place in the setting before the COVID-19 pandemic,
- Your child is considered a vulnerable child under the National Childcare Scheme or a legacy childcare scheme,
- Your child has a disability and previously attended an early learning and care setting or,
- You need to access childcare in order to return to work.
If there are local capacity constraints, services will be asked to prioritise the children of essential or frontline workers. Childminders will also be able to resume looking after children in the childminder’s home from 29th June.
- Parents should follow the drop off policy.
Childcare settings will use a child friendly designated drop off and collection area. During this period, it is important that parents and guardians are physically distance from each other and from staff when dropping off and collecting their children. Your setting manager and staff, will talk to you about the procedures they have in place to get your child/children safely into and, away from the setting during drop-off and pick-up
- What should I do to prepare my child in returning to crèche/preschool/childminder or starting for the first time?
It is important that you talk to your child to support them to prepare for the transition from home. It is also important to talk to your service provider and discuss what changes they are making to the environment and, their practice in response to public health guidance. Chat to your child about what might be different about the setting, such as drop off or collection, lots of handwashing, the idea of play pods, or that staff might have changed. Also, explain to them what will be the same such as playing indoors and outdoors, reading stories, doing art projects, dressing up, music and exploring nature. More information on supporting your child’s transition is available on our Gov.ie website [Lets Get Ready]
- What is a Play Pod?
The “play pod” model is a safe and playful approach to restricting interactions between closed groups of children and adults as an alternative to social distancing, which is not possible with young children. The purpose of ‘play-pods’ is to limit the number of people a child has contact with, to facilitate contact tracing, and to support close, positive interactions between children and their adult caregivers, like in a key-worker system, which is characteristic of many childcare settings. This system will also reduce the amount of contact adults have with each other. There will generally be one or two adults in a play-pod, sometimes three. Floating/relief staff that move from pod to pod will be necessary in some cases, but this will be kept to a minimum.
- Do not bring any toys from home.
Children must not bring their own toys from home. You can bring a comfort toy that helps your child to fall asleep. However, it is more important than ever that this toy is not shared with other children. It may be useful to provide a duplicate comfort toy to the setting where possible.
- Masks/Social Distancing.
Young children will not be expected to remain socially distanced from each other or the adults caring for them. Neither will they be expected to wear masks or be cared for by adults wearing masks. In some instances adults may wear masks or face coverings, including visors but this will generally be when they are not caring for children i.e. interacting with parents, during breaks. Infection risk should be minimised through children remaining within a small group (‘play-pod’) through the day.
Visit the First 5 website for more information and click on ‘Information for Parents’.