Parents will be left in the lurch after the re-opening of pre-school programmes were postponed until January 11, affecting more than 100,000 children in the process.
Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman met with the Early Learning and Childcare Covid-19 Advisory Group yesterday to discuss the matter.
Representatives from the group shared concerns about the reopening of pre-schools.
While accepting the need to maintain early learning and childcare for priority groups, the advisory group asked for the pre-school programme to be aligned with the reopening of other schools on January 11, and the minister agreed.
In a statement, the Department of Children stated: "By postponing the return of these children to the pre-school programme, social mixing will be reduced, which will help to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the post-Christmas period."
According to 2018 statistics from Early Childhood Ireland, this decision will affect almost 130,000, as well as their parents. The pre-school programme is being provided by more than 4,000 services nationwide.
Schools, early learning and childcare services are deemed to be essential under Level 5 lockdown.
This extends to include childminders who provide services other than, or in addition to, the pre-school programme.
The department described such childminders as providing "an essential service which supports parents to go to work".
As such, Mr O'Gorman has asked these services, which are private businesses, to reopen as planned from January 4 to provide childcare, particularly to priority groups.
The Department of Children stated that it will provide guidance to service providers relating to how they should prioritise demand for places within their services.