Welsh Government ‘actively looking’ at whether secondary school pupils should wear facemasks following move in Scotland
The Welsh Government is set to make a decision over the next couple of days on whether secondary school pupils should wear facemasks when they return to education settings next week.
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued guidance last week saying children over the age of 12 should wear masks.
Scottish secondary school pupils will have to wear face coverings in corridors, communal areas and school buses from next Monday.
During the Scottish government daily coronavirus briefing on Monday, Nicola Sturgeon said her government was “in the final stages of consulting teachers and local authorities on a recommendation for the use of face coverings by staff and pupils in secondary schools when moving around corridors and communal areas.”
The latest WHO advice states that children aged 12 and over should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults, in particular when they cannot guarantee at least a 1-metre distance from others and there is widespread transmission in the area.
The WHO guidance says that children aged 5 years and under should not be required to wear masks but that any decision to use masks for children aged 6-11 should be based on whether there is widespread transmission in the area where the child resides and the ability of the child to safely and appropriately use a mask.
Asked if schools are safe to open next week, Wales Health Minister Mr Vaughan Gething said:
“Yes, otherwise they wouldn’t be fully reopening, and you recall at the start of this week that all four Chief Medical Officers and their deputies from across the UK issued a statement on schools reopening and set out the balance of risk there is there confidently extensive evidence of an exceptionally small risk to children of primary or secondary school age.”
“I’ve said on a regular number of occasions we won’t rule out making different choices in the future if the evidence base changes at this point in time that evidence base is really firm that schools should reopen.”
With regards to pupils wearing facemasks, Mr Gething told BBC Radio Wales this morning, “I met with officials yesterday, and our scientific Technical Advisory Group is meeting today to consider the revised position set out by the World Health Organization, the evidence we have, and they’ve also sought information from our colleagues in Scotland that underpins the choice that they’ve made as well.”
“We’re not simply ignoring what the World Health Organisation or other governments to the UK and saying, we’re actively looking at it.
“I expect to get some advice later today and then I need to make a decision with ministerial colleagues if there is any change to be made.”
“We need to be fair to people needing to run the schools and parents and carers taking children to schools to make sure that we don’t have very short notice change.”
“There’s learning to take from Scotland who has had the schools open for two weeks, and then making a change (rules on facemasks) roughly two weeks after schools reopened.”
“I’d like to be in a position to have definitive advice for schools, and the whole school community, to make sure there isn’t this level of uncertainty we can provide that reassurance that it is safe for people to go back.”
Member of Senedd, Dr Dai Lloyd said the Welsh Government mustn’t “drag its feet” when it comes to adopting the latest scientific evidence, and should move quickly to give families time to prepare for the start of the new school year, which starts next week.
Dr Dai Lloyd, Member of Senedd for South Wales West region, said,
“Plaid Cymru has been making the case for months that the Welsh Government must take a firmer line on face masks.
“The World Health Organization guidance is clear that children of secondary school age, and their teachers, should wear a mask when social distancing is not possible, and yet here we are a week away from schools reopening and still no clearer on what is expected of our children or their teachers.”
“Parents need reassurance that the safety of their children is being put first and they need time to prepare their children for any new safety measures that are being taken, and yet the Welsh Government continues to drag its feet on this matter.
“With one week to go, the Welsh Government needs to move quickly to adopt the latest scientific evidence on keeping children safe in school. With many parents worried about sending their children back to school, not acting on the latest guidance just doesn’t make sense.”
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