Covid Scotland: Advisory committee considered face coverings for primary pupils

A group of advisers to the Scottish Government considered recommending the extension of mandatory face coverings to primary school children during the peak of the Omicron wave.

The Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children's Issues, chaired by Professor Linda Bauld of Edinburgh University, considered the measure during a meeting on January 11.

Members of the group supported the Covid-19 mitigation measures in place at that time, minutes show, as schools had recently returned after the festive break and the impact of this on transmission was not yet known.

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The group considered advising an expansion of these measures, to include mandatory face coverings for children in upper primary.

Picture: John DevlinPicture: John Devlin
Picture: John Devlin

But it was agreed “the potential harms of wearing face coverings continue to outweigh the possible benefits for under-12s”.

The group agreed to continue reviewing evidence around face covering advice in schools.

It comes as Nicola Sturgeon is set to update Parliament on Tuesday on the Covid-19 situation in Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs last week the Scottish Government was not recommending any immediate change to guidance in schools, ahead of a further meeting of the advisory sub-group on education and children’s issues later that day.

The Government would “consider carefully” any recommendation following this meeting, Ms Sturgeon had said, adding the matter “requires and will receive careful on-going consideration”.

The minutes of last week’s meeting have not yet been published.

The Scottish Conservatives have called for the requirement for secondary school students to wear face coverings to be scrapped.

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Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said in response to Ms Sturgeon’s statement: “Throughout the pandemic, there has been agreement that children’s education must come first. However, right now, adults can sit in workplaces and pubs without face masks, but pupils in classrooms are still required to wear them.”

The committee also discussed work to monitor and improve ventilation in Scottish schools, as well as Covid-19-related staff absences.

Public health workers on the committee agreed to work with officials on targeted vaccination sessions for eligible teachers and early learning and childcare workers, who as a younger workforce may not yet have had a booster vaccine.

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