Friday, March 05, 2021

Digital Desk Staff

There is to be no change to advice on mask-wearing for primary school children, with schools being asked to focus on physical distancing and increased ventilation.

As the Irish Examiner reports, mask-wearing in Ireland is advised for anyone aged over 13, and having considered the issue Nphet is now advising this guidance remains in place.

Chair of the Nphet expert group, Dr Máirín Ryan, said: “In young children, the benefit of mask use is likely small and may be affected by their reduced ability to comply with facemask-wearing.”

Paediatricians, she said, have advised that the addition of masks to an already abnormal school life could increase anxiety in young children.

The World Health Organization has said children should wear masks from age 12, but this was deemed unnecessary by the latest Nphet review.

Dr Ryan, who is also the deputy chief executive of the Health Information and Quality Authority, Hiqa, said that, in Irish schools, most children move to secondary school at 13 so this creates a natural break.

Physical distancing

“Most first-years will be 13, some will be 12. The guidance is that if you have a 12-year-old who is in first year, they are considered to be developmentally equivalent to their 13-year-old peers, so they comply as well with the mask-wearing,” she said.

However, Dr Ryan called on schools to maintain focus on physical distancing on school grounds and increased ventilation.

This, she said, is in light of what is known about increased transmissibility of the British variant B1.1.1.7.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn reported no increase in the number of cases linked to the South African B.1.351 at 15 cases, the Brazilian P1 variant at three cases, and the UK/Nigerian variant B.1.525 at three.

The B.1.1.7 UK variant remains the most dominant at over 90 per cent.

Nphet confirmed that there is now a strong downward trend in all Covid-19 markers, across case numbers, hospitalisations, and deaths according to Professor Philip Nolan.

The chair of the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group said: “This represents an extraordinary effort over a very challenging nine-week period which has brought us from 6,500 cases to under 600.”

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