Posted: Tue 11th May 2021

Lifting rules on the use of face coverings in school under “active consideration” in Wales

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, May 11th, 2021

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A move to relax the requirement for masks to be worn by children in secondary schools in Wales is “under active consideration.”

Experts are “collecting all evidence” and an “informed assessment” will be made on the non-use of face coverings in schools in Wales, Dr Giri Shankar from Public Health Wales has said.

Pupils in England will no longer be required to wear face masks in school from next week, Boris Johnson announced on Monday.

Face coverings will also no longer be recommended for staff in classrooms in England from May 17.

School staff and other adults will still have to wear face coverings in situations where social distancing is not possible, including corridors and communal areas.

Boris Johnson told a Downing Street briefing that from next Monday, the UK government “will no longer require face coverings in classrooms, or for students in communal areas in secondary schools and colleges.”

The move follows a review of the latest data on infection and vaccination rates.

The UK’s chief medical officers announced on Monday announced the UK wide Covid-19 alert level will be lowered from level 4 to level 3.

In a joint statement, the CMOs said: “Following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and in the light of the most recent data, the UK Chief Medical Officers and NHS England National Medical Director agree that the UK alert level should move from level 4 to level 3.

“Thanks to the efforts of the UK public in social distancing and the impact we are starting to see from the vaccination programme, case numbers, deaths and COVID hospital pressures have fallen consistently.

“However COVID is still circulating with people catching and spreading the virus every day so we all need to continue to be vigilant.”

The Welsh government cabinet met on Monday afternoon to discuss which restrictions can be lifted as part of the three-week review period.

Those measures will be revealed towards the end of the week.

Dr Giri Shanker told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast this morning that is an issue of facemasks in classrooms is “under active consideration in the technical advisory group and colleagues are collecting all evidence including inputs on Public Health Wales.”

He said: “We will be able to make an informed assessment of whether we can move to non-use of face coverings in school straight away, or we do need some more evidence to accumulate.”

“Clearly we know that the school-age population hasn’t yet been vaccinated and therefore are still at risk of catching and spreading Coronavirus.”

“We have to consider all possible measures that can still remain in place to protect such cohorts of people.”

Following Monday’s announcement from the prime minister, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“Creating the confidence that this next step is the right thing to do is essential to avoid an unnecessary shock to a system in recovery.”

“Parents, pupils and staff will want to understand why removing the requirement for face coverings in classrooms is considered appropriate when it is not for other enclosed spaces.”

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We recognise that there are arguments both for and against pupils wearing face masks in classrooms.”

“It is therefore doubly important that any decision over their continued use should be based firmly upon scientific advice.”

“However, the (UK) government’s decision to relax the rules around face masks in secondary schools and colleges (in England) is hard to reconcile with evidence published by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies on Friday.”

“This evidence quite clearly said that it was important to maintain the current mitigation measures in schools, including mask wearing, in the coming months.”

“It is obviously better for communication and learning if masks aren’t required in classrooms, but any decision to this effect must follow the scientific advice, and it is very worrying that the (UK) government’s decision appears to contradict the published evidence.”

Mark Drakeford is expected to hold a press conference on Friday, May 14 where he will set out the next set of changes likely to come into force in Wales on Monday, May 17.

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