Five members of staff out of 12 at a childcare facility have tested positive for Covid-19 in advance of the reopening of creches and after-school services on Monday.
All five members were asymptomatic for the virus and would have turned up for work as normal on Monday had they not been tested, according to Elaine Dunne, chair of the Federation of Early Childhood Providers. The unnamed facility in Munster will not reopen as planned, said the group, which represents more than 1,600 providers across the State.
Ms Dunne said childcare providers are “scared stiff” about returning to work on Monday because of the sharp rise in the number of Covid-19 cases recorded over the weekend.
Childcare facilities for frontline and essential workers open as usual on Monday though schools will remain closed until January 11th at the earliest.
The Government’s Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Scheme is not planned to restart either until January 11th.
Ms Dunne said the latest Covid-19 figures, which saw almost 5,000 infections reported on Sunday, had caused a lot of anxiety among staff.
She said this had been heightened by the fact that children are much more susceptible to a new variant of Covid-19, believed to spread faster than the original, and an eight-year-old child died in Bristol, England of it over the weekend.
“We have not been given clear guidance as to what the symptoms are for a child. It was very hit and miss before. We have had no guidance whatsoever about the symptoms for the new variant,” she said.
Ms Dunne said the closure of childcare facilities in the spring meant a lot of frontline workers did not have any options as relatives were not allowed to look after their children.
She stressed that federation members wanted to look after the children of frontline workers such as doctors, nurses and paramedics, but that should not be extended to essential workers such as supermarket staff, transport workers and those involved in essential factory work given the numbers at present.
Ms Dunne pointed out that childcare workers are very low down the priority for vaccination and she said they should be a higher priority.
“Currently we are at number 11 in the list at the moment. We are the only group here that can keep the economy open and running. Out of respect we should be treated as frontline workers.”