Parents might have to wait in their cars, or at a designated point, while a childcare professional collects their child and brings them into a creche, under plans being examined by the Government.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone also said the preliminary guidance is pointing towards childcare operating in "pods".

This is a small group of children in the same room, with the same childcare professional, with the same toys every time they are in the childcare facility.

She also said the Government is exploring how many children can be in the care of one practitioner which will play together and stay together in the pod.

She said they need to examine how adults working in the centre can social distance.

Minister Zappone told the Dáil that the initial advice is that the wearing of face masks for children under the age of six is unlikely to contribute to improved infection control.

She said she wanted to focus now on the phased reopening of the childcare services which she said would happen on 29 June and was "a big step".

The Minister said that bringing children together in groups has never been free of the risk of infection, and she said not providing childcare would be a huge risk. 

She said children under six cannot do social distancing and that this would be traumatic for children. 

Minister Zappone said it would cost €2 billion to €3 billion to provide a public model of childcare, and that she would personally be in favour of such a model.

Concerns have were raised in the Dáil that many creches might not be willing to open up for essential childcare workers as planned on 29 June.

Fianna Fáil's Anne Rabbitte said the "rumour on the ground" is that there "might not be buy in" from providers when they are scheduled to reopen on a phased basis later next month, and there will be huge capacity issues.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said childcare providers are currently being surveyed and parents will also be asked to respond to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in order to assess the demand and the capacity when services begin to reopen.

"In other countries when childcare reopens demand is lower than anticipated because of the fear of parents for their children," the Minister said. 

Deputy Rabbitte said clarity was needed on who was deemed an essential worker. She said there will be difficulties for parents if they can only use creches on a limited basis. 

"When Phase Four comes along, are we telling workers that you can only have care or provision one day out of five? You tell any woman going back to work that she has to tell her employer that she can only show up one out of five days. Can you explain that to me?" 

The Minister responded that the roadmap was "following the advice" and "those restrictions were given to us".

Ms Zappone also told TDs that Ireland was considering the Norwegian model of reopening creches and preschools.

"For the phased reopening we will be referring to the Norwegian model, among others, and how this might apply to Ireland." 

Minister Zappone told the Dáil that her Department wanted to issue a state indemnity to ensure that childcare services could reopen for health workers but that was rejected by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.  

"We did look at the issue of state indemnity and we were back and forth with DPER many times in order to argue for that, and effectively DPER said no," she said. 

Minister Zappone said that the planned reopening of childcare facilities late next month for the children of frontline workers will not be without risk.

Independent Wexford TD Verona Murphy called on the Government to provide childcare providers with a "clear, coherent plan" for the reopening of the childcare sector.

She said there has been a failure of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to provide clear guidelines so childcare providers can decide on reopening which she said is "deplorable".

Deputy Murphy said childcare providers are unable to provide reassurance to parents as to how they will care for their children in the weeks ahead.

She said they cannot even inform their staff if they will be returning to work.

In response, Minister Zappone said there will be protocols and clear guidelines, however, she said it would not happen in the next week.

Additional reporting Aisling Kenny, Mícheál Lehane