Around 100,000 children returned to preschool this morning under the Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme.

It is part of a phased reopening of childcare with a full return planned in three weeks' time.

The ECCE scheme is part of the State's preschool programme, which is delivered by more than 4,000 service providers nationwide.

It entitles early learners to free childcare, three hours a day, five days a week over two years.

Apart from the preschool scheme, childcare services continued to operate under Level 5 restrictions for the children of essential workers and vulnerable children.

Meanwhile, early data from primary schools, one week after reopening, has shown that positivity levels of the virus remain very low.

However, both the Government and the National Public Health Emergency Team have been keen to emphasise that all phased returns to school will be monitored on an ongoing basis.

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Twenty-eight children returned to St Patrick's preschool in the heart of Galway city.

A concrete patch at the back of the school has been turned into an award-winning garden by the school's primary pupils, but the preschoolers have full access to this vibrant oasis of tubs and flowerpots, vegetable patches and brightly coloured picnic benches.

Manager of St Patrick's preschool Niamh Higgins

Preschool manager Niamh Higgins said she continued to operate under Level 5 restrictions for the children of essential workers and vulnerable children.

She said all health and safety measures are being strictly adhered to with staff wearing medical masks and changing clothes when they arrive to school.

Hand sanitisers and ventilators are in place and parents are made fully aware of the protocol in place if children develop symptoms of any sort.