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Up to 12 children could be cared for in ‘pod’ when facilities re-open

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said it is impossible for children to social distance

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Minister for Children Katherine Zappone at Government Buildings (Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland)

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone at Government Buildings (Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland)

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone at Government Buildings (Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland)

Children will be grouped into pods of between six and 12 when childcare facilities re-open on June 29.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said she could not confirm how many childcare providers will be able to re-open.

Speaking at a post-cabinet briefing on Friday, she said there is a risk the virus may spread but there will be infection controls and limits to how many children will be allowed in the same room.

Ms Zappone said “young children cannot do social distancing” and play pods will allow children to play in a “natural and spontaneous” way.

She said: “For children in full daycare, this could mean for children under the age of one – there could be six children and two adults in a play pod or for children aged two or over it could be 12 children and two adults in a play pod.

“The purpose of play pods is to limit the number of people a child has contact with, to facilitate tracing, and to support close, positive interactions between children and their adult caregivers, like in a key-worker system.

“This system will also reduce the amount of contact adults have with each other. Where possible, there should be two adults in a ‘play pod’, to allow breaks without need for floating staff.”

Ms Zappone said while initially the Government road map indicated that services would resume only for the children of essential workers, this has now been widened.

It will now include children of health and social care workers, other frontline workers, childcare practitioners and parents who need access to childcare in order to return to work.

Vulnerable, homeless or children deemed to be at risk of poverty will also be included.

Childminders will also be able to resume looking after children in the childminder’s home from June 29, while complying with health advice.

Schools and creches have been closed since March 12, and childcare providers have said many facilities will go out of business or choose not to reopen unless the Government agrees to increase funding to the sector.

Later, at the evening briefing by the National Public Health Emergency Team, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the pod size was partly influenced by models that have proved successful in other countries.

He said he knew some parents would be “apprehensive” about putting their children back into childcare, but said he and NPHET colleagues had been “reassured” that countries that had made the same step had not seen transmission rates rise.

PA