Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Government has today decided to facilitate the safe return of in-school education and childcare services on a cautious and phased basis during March and April.

The current public health restrictions will remain in place until 5th April 2021, when a further review will be conducted.

The revised plan for managing the virus – COVID-19 Resilience & Recovery 2021: The Path Ahead sets out how in-school education and childcare services will be reinstated in a phased manner from 1st March, with staggered return throughout March to be concluded after the Easter break on 12th April.  

If the transmission of the virus reaches acceptable levels, the vaccination programme progresses as planned and public health advice allows, further options that will be considered from April 5th are:

Some easing of restrictions on outdoor activities and meetings beyond 1 other household;

Consideration of extending the current 5km limit;

Staggered start of easing of other areas of restriction with a focus on outdoor activities including sport and some areas of construction.

Any further easing of restrictions after 5th April will need a further three to four week period to allow for assessment of the impact of changes.

The requirement to work from home will continue throughout this period, unless work is an essential health, social care or other essential service or activity that cannot be done from home.

Government’s community support and well-being programmes will continue and employment and business supports will be extended, many of them to June.

Phase Return to In School Education

 The phased return of in-school education and childcare services will be implemented as follows:

1st March 2021:

 Special schools to resume at 100% capacity.

The first four classes at primary level i.e. Junior and Senior infants, First and Second class to return to in-school education.

Final year Leaving Certificate classes to return to in-school education subject to final agreement.

8th March 2021

 Resumption of the ECCE Programme and return of ECCE-age children

15th March 2021

 Targeted return of 3rd; 4th; 5th and 6th class at primary level. 5th years at post-primary level.

29th March 2021

 Resumption of all other early learning and childcare services

12th April onwards (post Easter Holidays)

 Reopening for 1st to 4th years at post-primary.

Early Years and School Aged Childcare

 The staggered resumption of early learning and childcare services will take place over the following phases:

  • Resumption of the ECCE Programme and return of ECCE-age children from 8 March
  • Resumption of all other early learning and childcare services from 29 March.
  • The resumption of the ECCE Programme from 8 March broadly aligns with the resumption of onsite primary schooling. It is also in line with expectation among providers and offers sufficient time for providers to prepare to reopen.

Economic measures:

Over the coming period, Government will continue to support workers by:

Extending the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme, currently scheduled to close on 31 March 2021, to 30 June 2021.

Extending the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, currently scheduled to close on 31 March 2021, to 30 June 2021 for current recipients, and continue to allow new entrants to join the Payment.

Extending the COVID-19 enhanced illness benefit, currently scheduled to end on 31 March 2021, to 30 June 2021.

In addition, Government will continue to support business by:

Extending the COVID Restrictions Support Scheme, scheduled to close on 31 March 2021, to 30 June 2021 and will conduct an economic assessment of the scheme in line with the statutory requirements on the impact, design and sustainability of this important support.

Continuing to provide significant supports, through loans, grants, vouchers and support schemes to business affected by the pandemic, and to keep such supports under review as the situation develops

Extending the suspension of redundancy provisions, currently in place to 31 March 2021, to 30 June 2021, in order to help avoid further permanent job losses at a time when approximately 480,000 people are in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

Extending the current commercial rates waiver for a further three months for those businesses most seriously affected by the restrictions.

Local Communities and Local Delivery

 A further Stability Fund for Community and Voluntary Organisations top-up of €10 million will be made available to enable continuity of critical service delivery to vulnerable groups.

Wellbeing and Mental Health

Auxiliary mental health supports will continue to be offered remotely to ensure those in isolation can access assistance when needed. An additional €10 million in funding will be made available to meet the increase in demand being experienced

Contact Newsdesk: 045 432147

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