Posted by Schooldays Newhound, on 19/08/2021. Tags: Parenting Education And Politics
Primary school children will not be required to wear a mask upon return to school despite the rise in COVID cases. In documentation released and sent to schools by the Department of Education on Wednesday 18th of August, the Department state It is not recommended that children attending primary school wear face-coverings as ‘it may cause undue stress’. However, academics who form the Independent Scientific Advocacy Group (ISAG) oppose this decision in the fight against Covid-19. Children should wear masks
ISAG, who continuously advocate for a zero-covid approach, called for all children to be encouraged to wear high quality masks with a comprehensive policy on mask wearing and provide adequate ventilation to all schools. In a webinar held on the 18th of August praise was lavished on teens and their high vaccine uptake but was quickly followed by concern over the return to school among the highest numbers of daily cases we’ve seen since the start of 2021. Facts shared by Physicist and pandemic expert Prof Yaneer Bar-Yam indicate Israel’s main drivers of infection are currently unvaccinated young children. Cases have jumped from 10 a day to between 8,000-9,000 in the space of a few months with Israel considering a delay to restarting school.
Orla Hegarty, an architect and assistant professor at UCD, said ventilation of schools was crucial and welcomed the planned introduction of carbon dioxide monitors to classrooms. As last years ventilation was supported by windows and doors being kept open, she agrees the ‘over-ventilation’ caused children and staff being cold and not always offering the protection necessary to keep the risk low, particularly where rooms were small or sheltered. She suggested Ireland should move some climate change budget and spend it on improving public health by retro fitting better ventilation systems into schools.
While the Public health authorities say evidence available from the operation of schools to date shows they are low-risk environments due to infection prevention and control measures, Orla countered this with concern over the increase of daily cases and increase of transmission since children were last in classrooms stating; “We’re talking about a million children going back to schools over the next two weeks . . . very few will be double vaccinated, so there’s a huge unvaccinated population going into high-risk settings,”
Public health expert and member of the group, Dr Gabriel Scally, said other countries were recommending face masks for younger children and there was no reason why this could not happen here if there was an organised effort to supply schools with them.Public Health advice on masks in schools
Secondary school students will be required to wear a mask at all times within school. Staff within schools and early childcare centres will also be required to continue wearing masks. All students and staff will need to adhere to physical distancing, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and minimising contacts.
The following groups are exempt from wearing face coverings:Primary school children
Any person with difficulty breathing
Any person who is unconscious or incapacitated
Any person who is unable to remove the face-covering without assistance
Any person who has special needs and who may feel upset or very uncomfortable wearing the face covering, for example persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental health conditions, sensory concerns or tactile sensitivity.
The Department of Education’s documentation on return to school guidelines can be found here.