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Weir updates guidance on use of face coverings in schools

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Education Minister Peter Weir last night announced that guidance on face coverings will be updated to include wearing them in corridors of post-primary schools.

This will come into effect on 31 August when schools return on a full-time basis.

The Minister said: “My key priority is that pupils return to school on a full-time basis, as soon as it is safe to do so.

“Following further advice which I have received today from the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientific Adviser, I am recommending that pupils and teachers wear a face covering in corridors and other communal areas of post-primary schools from next week when schools return full-time. This updates the existing guidance on the use of face coverings in educational settings.

“The current public health advice is that the use of face coverings provides some benefits, however, it is not a replacement for frequent hand washing, social distancing where possible, covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and regular cleaning of surfaces. It is also important to remember that evidence suggests that the risk of transmission in schools is relatively low compared to some other settings.

“My existing guidance on the reopening of schools already deals with the use of face coverings. In terms of school transport, the advice remains the same, that we strongly recommend that all pupils wear a face covering on all dedicated school transport including buses and taxis where it is appropriate for them to do so.

“In relation to communal areas in schools, the guidance already strongly encourages face coverings for activities that entail large numbers of staff or pupils within an enclosed space where social distancing is not possible.

“Given the risk mitigations in place in schools to limit and contain the spread of Covid-19, face coverings are not recommended as being compulsory for routine use in education settings. However, staff and pupils may wish to use them during the routine school day and this is acceptable. Schools should also be aware that some persons (including some children) are exempt from wearing face coverings.

“I will continue to keep all guidance in respect of education settings under review in light of the latest medical and scientific advice.”

Peter Weir said: “The first step in keeping our schools safe is that anyone with symptoms should not attend school. Parents should not send their children to school if they have any of the Covid-19 symptoms including:

– a high temperature
– a new, continuous cough
– a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.”

The Department’s New School Day Guidance will be updated to reflect this recommendation.

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