SIPTU representatives have written, to the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderick O’Gorman, to call for greater protections from Covid-19 infection for childcare professionals. SIPTU Head of Organising, Darragh O’Connor, said: “The pandemic has shown that Early Years educators are essential frontline workers who deliver a key public service by educating and caring for children. However, they are also in a very vulnerable situation. They are one of the few groups of frontline workers who are not required to wear a facemask in the workplace and cannot practice social distancing.  “The most recent figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) show that there were 19 outbreaks in childcare facilities in just one week, between 18th and 24th, October.    “In the letter, SIPTU representatives highlight the vulnerable position of Early Years educators to Covid-19 infection in childcare settings. They further call for the public health advice on the use of facemasks in Early Years settings to be reviewed as a matter of urgency, that it be recommended that educators can wear a facemask in work if they choose and that the testing and contact tracing regime for childcare workers be expedited.  “In a SIPTU ‘Reopening After Covid’ survey of over 6,000 Early Years Educators conducted earlier this year 18% of respondents said they had an underlying condition that would prevent them from returning to work. A further 32% said they live with someone with an underlying heath condition.” He added: “In addition, 79% of Early Years educators do not have a sick pay scheme at work and a majority earn below the Living Wage of €12.30 per hour. These conditions during the Covid-19 crisis are causing considerable anxiety for Early Years educators, particularity those with an underlying health issue. It is essential that Early Years educators and children are protected as much as practically possible during the pandemic.”  To view the HPSC Report on Covid-19 outbreaks in childcare settings click here.