Removal of public health measures from February 28
As per the recent press release from the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY), public health measures for the sector will be removed as of Monday, 28 February 2022. As such, mask-wearing, pods, social distancing, staggered drop-off and collections and restrictions on visitors will no longer be required in settings. Therefore, settings can decide to discontinue the use of pods in settings, can allow visits by parents and can revert to previous arrangements for drop-off and collections. Mask wearing can also be discontinued, however, settings are encouraged to accommodate children, parents or staff that may wish to continue their use. The sector can be proud of their hard work over the last two years, and for keeping children, families and colleagues safe.
As we know, COVID-19 is still circulating in our communities. So, Early Childhood Ireland has put together some best practice tips as we transition into this new phase of responding to the pandemic:
- Continued diligence in handwashing and sanitising should be encouraged amongst children, staff and visitors.
- Anyone with any symptoms of COVID-19 should not come to settings and should self-isolate or restrict movements as per the Isolation Quick Guide for adults or children, or HSE guidance.
- The antigen testing scheme for close contacts can still be accessed, and you can find more information here. Children and staff should be encouraged to access this.
- Consult with your staff about the best way forward regarding the removal of public health measures in your setting.
- Consideration should be given to accommodating staff or families that may be vulnerable or live with someone vulnerable, and who may continue to want to wear masks and face coverings.
- Based on risk assessments and discussions with staff, providers may consider retaining some aspects of the public health measures in their setting.
- If your setting had previously been using pods, you can discontinue their use. This can be done by removing the structure of pods in their entirety, or you could consider enlarging the pods in an incremental fashion over time, for example, if a room contained three pods you could merge them into two one week, followed by one the next week – mitigating some risk of COVID-19 outbreaks. If pods are working in your setting, you can of course retain them. Again, consultation with staff and children is important.
- With the removal of pods, groups of children may change or mix more throughout the day so it is important to be aware of this transition for the children in your setting and how you can support the children if changes are happening and involve them in the decision making.
- Continue to be vigilant regarding visitors to the setting, you might consider appointment only processes for the time being. Each visitor should continue to sign in, sanitise hands and wear a mask if the setting decides it is necessary.
- Although drop-offs and collections can return to normal, you can consider retaining some elements of your COVID-19 procedure should it be easier to manage. You can also advise parents against congregating, and ask that masks be worn when interacting with staff.
- Continue to engage with resources provided on DCEDIYs First 5 page and from the Health and Safety Authority.
As always, we would recommend consulting with the Transitional Protocol: Good Practice Guidance for Continuing to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 regarding any staff concerns and ensuring that your workplace is safe.