The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, T.D., has today (14 December) announced the introduction of an antigen testing programme for early learning and childcare services (ELC). The parameters for the antigen testing programme have been agreed by the HSE.

The antigen tests will be available to children aged 4 and over and staff in a pod where there is a confirmed case of COVID-19. Antigen testing for children under the age of 4 has not been recommended. These measures will be in place from 15 December 2021.

Under the antigen testing programme, parents are requested to inform the manager of their child’s ELC service immediately if their child has a positive COVID-19 PCR test result. The manager will then contact the staff and parents of the other children in the pod to inform then that there is a case and to give them information on how they can request antigen tests for their child (where the child in 4 years or more), should they wish to do so. Antigen testing is voluntary.

Children who are well and have no COVID-19 or respiratory symptoms can remain in their ELC services while they are completing their antigen tests. However parents should not send their child to their ELC service (regardless of their age) if they have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or if their child has a positive PCR or antigen test.

Asymptomatic (well) children are low risk for transmission of COVID-19. ELC services have remained relatively low risk environments and have not been a driver of transmission of COVID-19 in children.

Commenting on the new suite of measures, Minister O’Gorman said:

“Children’s health and well-being is at the forefront of all our work. Early learning and childcare providers have risen to the challenge of adapting to the current COVID-19 restrictions which has kept transmission rates low in their services. To further support their efforts and make these critical services safer for children, their families and the early learning and childcare workforce, I am happy to announce the introduction of antigen testing for children aged 4 and over and for staff in in these settings. This will enable staff and children aged 4 and old in a pod with a confirmed Covid-19 case to request a pack of antigen tests if they wish to.

“Children will be able to continue to attend their service if they do not have a positive antigen test and they are not showing symptoms of COVID-19.”

Information on this announcement is being sent to providers, along with a communication from the Department to be circulated to the parents in their service

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