The guidance, developed in consultation with her department, focuses on a “play-pod” model. The “play pod” model restricts 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 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. The maximum size of a ‘play-pod’ will be confirmed in the coming days.
Services will now be asked to apply the guidance to their setting and determine what capacity they may offer. It is expected that a significant amount of capacity will be available in individual services that reopen in the summer, subject to, for example, their space, room layout and staffing availability. Whilst there are 4,500 Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare services in the country, fewer than 2,000 of these normally remain open in July and August.
The HPSC guidance developed by their Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control Division (AMRIC) on ‘Infection Prevention and Control guidance for settings providing childcare during the COVID-19 Pandemic’ was agreed by NPHET’s Expert Advisory Group this week and will be published on the HPSC website today. As services reopen, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs will keep the operation of the guidance under close review and take appropriate updated action as required.
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