Schools reopening: SAGE expert warns pupils can spread the virus MORE by wearing masks | UK | News
Schools in England and Wales are getting ready to reopen next week as Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged parents to send their children back to the classroom. Some schools have asked pupils to wear masks when walking around in school corridors. But SAGE member Professor Russell Viner has warned that wearing face coverings could increase the risk of coronavirus for young children.
Speaking to BBC Newsnight, Professor Viner said: “The evidence on masks is very unclear and I think that’s in one sense potentially going beyond the evidence we have.
“There are lots of concerns about mask-wearing for children, particularly younger children because they touch their face, they’re constantly worried about their mask, they actually could potentially spread the virus more.
“I think for young children we’re very clear it’s not a good idea.
“Teenagers again I think we don’t have the evidence this is useful.
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“I think we need to look at the way that teenagers transmit this virus.
“The evidence that they transmit in schools is not very high.
“There are interesting issues about in school and out of school and I get that people are worried about young people but there’s very little evidence for the use of masks in schools.”
A union has said masks should be kept under review despite the Education Secretary insisting the measure is not needed as schools in England prepare to reopen.
It comes as the Scottish Government is expected to state its decision on face coverings in schools in light of the latest guidance from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that children aged 12 and over should wear a mask.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said as evidence continues to emerge, Westminster should review its guidance.
ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton told the Daily Telegraph: “We would expect the Government in Westminster to review its guidance on the use of face coverings in schools – which currently says they are not required – in light of the WHO guidance and the consultation taking place in Scotland.
“The evidence is clearly evolving on this issue and it is important that it is kept under review and that clear direction is provided to schools.”
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On Monday, a Number 10 spokesman said there were “no plans” to review the guidance on face coverings in schools.
He added: “We are conscious of the fact that it would obstruct communication between teachers and pupils.”
England’s deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries has said the evidence on whether children over 12 should wear masks in schools was “not strong”, while Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said measures being adopted by schools to limit the spread of coronavirus meant masks were not required.
The World Health Organisation’s advice suggests adults and children aged 12 and over should wear a mask, particularly when they cannot guarantee at least a one-metre distance from others and there is widespread transmission in the area.