Posted: Wed 26th Aug 2020

Welsh Government say schools and councils can make local risk assessments on use of face coverings

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Aug 26th, 2020

Face coverings are being recommended but not mandated “in a range of settings where other physical controls cannot be maintained” for those aged over 11 the Welsh Government have announced.

The move means localised decision making on the requirements to require masks or face coverings can take place, with councils and schools being asked to conduct risk assessments and then make the final decision on if they should be used in communal areas and on school transport.

A new Technical Advisory Cell advice document has been published showing the advice Welsh Government has received on the matter, usually such documents appear several days after Minister receive them however this has been made public just a day later.

In it the TAC state: “Due to the relative absence of real world data in school settings in UK or comparable cultures where wearing of masks or face coverings is not the cultural expectation, there is uncertainty of the potential additional benefit for face coverings for children or teachers.”

It adds, “The rates of infection and transmission increase gradually after age 11, during the secondary school age group. The current evidence from schools return in England and Scotland is that the majority of school based cases are imported from adult spread, but there is a small potential for spread within the school setting.”

The Chief Medical Officer’s advice is summarised as: “CMO advice currently recommends, but does not mandate, face coverings to be used in a risk assessed way in a range of settings where other physical controls cannot be maintained.

“It is recommended that all secondary education settings undertake a risk assessment of the school estate, and local authorities, working with schools, settings and transport operators as necessary, should undertake a risk assessment for dedicated school transport… to identify risk areas where face coverings might need to be added to schools’ covid security planning. The risk assessment should identify the criteria used for the decision to start and to stop the use of face coverings.”

A joint statement has been issued by Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health and Social Services and Kirsty Williams, Minister for Education as below:

It is vital children and young people, parents and the education workforce feel confident that all measures are being taken to protect them as they return to schools and colleges.

Welsh Government has already issued operational guidance to schools and colleges, and schools have worked hard to implement safety measures. The opportunity for pupils to attend school before the end of the summer term to check in, catch up and prepare allowed schools to test these measures.

Today we publish the additional advice from the Technical Advisory Group following its review of the use of face coverings in schools.  That advice is available at: https://gov.wales/technical-advisory-group-face-coverings-children-and-young-people-education-settings

It builds on recent publications from the UK Chief Medical Officers and Deputy Chief Medical Officers and the World Health Organisation.  

We are advised that while face coverings are likely to be of little value in children under the age of 11 years, the rates of infection and transmission increase after from the age of 11 onwards and could have a role in risk mitigation.

The current advice from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales is that face coverings are recommended for all members of the public over 11 years in indoor settings in which social distancing cannot be maintained, including schools and school transport.

We will amend our operational guidance for schools and FE to require settings and local authorities to undertake risk assessments of their estates to determine if face coverings should be recommended for their staff and young people in communal areas. This will also include school and college transport.

As part of the risk assessment we recommend that staff, students, families and unions are engaged. Social distancing is still required in the class room, so face to face teaching without coverings can continue. The overall interests of the young person must be given priority in these assessments and there must be no risk of exclusion from transport to school. Face coverings may need to be provided to young people who don’t have them, if they are recommended locally.

At present, the incidence of coronavirus in the community is low, but we expect to see clusters of cases, which may require additional local control measures. In addition to the support provided and advice by our Test Trace Protect service these should be taken in accordance with our recently published Coronavirus Control Plan.

This guidance will remain under review as the pandemic continues and may change if community prevalence changes across Wales in the future.


Top pic: A face mask.

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