SIPTU representatives have called on the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to reassess the risk to workers and children in childcare services in light of the new Covid-19 strains and spiralling infection rates.
Following a meeting of the SIPTU Early Years National Committee, Head of Strategic Organising, Darragh O’Connor, said: “Early Years educators are extremely frightened about returning to work to provide care for the children of other essential workers and vulnerable children. Social distancing is not possible when working with children and facemasks are not compulsory. They are also extremely concerned by reports that the new strains of Covid-19 may infect children more easily than previous ones.
“Across the sector there is also an inconsistent interpretation as to who is an essential worker. If we are to be able to combat the growing threat to our health services and maintain other essential services, clear guidance on this issue must be introduced along with necessary measures to protect the functioning of childcare services.
“SIPTU represents thousands of Early Years educators. Their safety and that of the children they care for is paramount. Many other workers are also on the frontline of the fight against Covid-19, their children need be provided with safe education settings.
“We are calling on NPHET to reassess their guidance for childcare services given the scale of Covid-19 infection rates and the new variants. Once this guidance has been given it is then essential that the government arrives at a fully joined-up approach that ensures the maximum level of protection and services for all essential workers, including those in childcare, across the economy.”
“We are also calling on government to prioritise Early Years educators for the vaccine rollout and targeted testing.”
He added: “We are facing into an unprecedented stage in this national crisis. SIPTU members are committed to doing everything in their power to serve our society during this time but they can only do this once they are provided with the most comprehensive and up to date medical guidance.”