The ongoing mandate to keep primary school students masked in classrooms is being questioned by leading epidemiologists and paediatric experts. They believe it restricts learning and social development of children and thus must be wound back.
Victorian students in grades three to six are still required to wear masks. According to child behavioural experts the prolonged mandate while their senior counterparts are no longer required to wear masks, had children finding it difficult to meet learning outcomes and develop socially.
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Speaking to Neil Mitchell of Melbourne Radio 3AW, Australia’s former deputy chief medical officer and an infectious diseases physician Nick Coatsworth said there was no justification to keep them mandatory in schools.
He said Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton was in minority when it comes to expert opinion on the mandate.
Ncik Coatsworth said the argument to keep kids masked might be valid if the virus caused high mortality in that age group, or if there was no vaccine protection.
The former deputy chief medical officer said “it’s absolutely time” to do away with masks in Victorian schools.
He added there was overemphasis on the risk COVID-19 has on the vaccinated population, and overemphasis on the benefits of masking kids. He said the current variant of COVID-19 was very very mild especially for that age group.
According to Nick Coatesworth, people with chronic health conditions which compromise their immune system and the very frail elderly should be the ones to focus on.
The experts say about three per 100,000 children may end up hospitalised, if at all. Vaccinated children have supplemented immunity and should be okay even if they are infected.
“Demanding people to wear masks – particularly young kids when it does impact their learning – is hard to explain when you’re not imposing it for other workplaces. Having a different set of rules for a small part of our community is not justified”, The Herald Sun quoted Deakin University chair of epidemiology Catherine Bennett saying.
The experts believe along with learning, communication, socialisation and emotional regulation were being negatively impacted by the prolonged wearing of masks.
There is no real data showing severe health risks, hospitalizations or mortality rate for children that young. Given that winter is upon us and there may be new variants or outbreaks which may necessitate mask mandates for all again, it is about time the children are given reprieve from this ordeal.