A school in England has become the first in Britain to make wearing a mask a mandatory part of the uniform, despite the government advising against masking children.
All staff and pupils at Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School in Cheshire, England, were informed that they would be forced to wear masks while inside school buildings from September. They may remove them when outside, such as in the playground.
The Mirror reports that Holmes Chapel is the first school in the country to mandate that children wear masks. The reusable cloth masks will be navy-blue, branded with the school’s initials, and cost £3.
“Everyone, students and staff, MUST wear a face covering whilst inside the school buildings. This includes classrooms and corridors. Masks will form part of our uniform,” a newsletter seen by CheshireLive and published on Wednesday said.
“On the balance of probability, the wearing of face masks is likely to make our school safer than if we don’t wear them,” the newsletter continued. However, the government advises against masks for school pupils on grounds that the risk of transmission is minimal as children are consistently mixing with the same group of people.
Dr Sarah Lewis, senior lecturer in genetic epidemiology at the University of Bristol, also warned that it could cause anxiety and impede learning.
While the children will not be wearing the masks solidly all day, they will be wearing them for long periods, with the epidemiologist warning that used, damp material could be a risk for spreading infection. Dr Lewis said, according to the Daily Mail: “Children are unlikely to wear them all day because they will become wet and uncomfortable and the discarded masks may be more of a risk for virus transmission.”
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Children are at low risk of transmission of the Chinese virus, according to government scientists, with Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) saying there was some evidence that children are less likely to pass on Covid-19.
Schools which force children to wear masks could face legal action, for acting in a “manifestly absurd” manner, however.
Lawyer George McLellan told The Telegraph last month: “The primary ground for judicial review would be unreasonableness or irrationality.”
“The concern with masks is that there is no rational basis for them to be required. We would say there is a lack of proportionality of requiring children in schools to wear masks,” Mr McLellan said.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock had pointed out in July that wearing a mask while in strangers’ company for a short period of time on a bus or in a supermarket is different to spending several hours with consistent groups of people, where wearing a mask becomes less effective. Speaking about office workers, Mr Hancock said: “When you’re in close proximity with somebody that you have to work closely to, if you’re there for a long time with them, then a mask doesn’t offer that protection.”
He added: “The same logic applies for schools — we’re not recommending masks for schools because if you’re in a classroom with kids all day, then a mask doesn’t give you protection.”
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