Face coverings at school: “Hopefully it will only be for one schoolyear!”

Erika Vlieghe, the infectious diseases expert who heads the group of experts on corona measures advising the governments, has said that pupils aged 12 or over may have to wear face coverings for an entire schoolyear.  The Flemish education minister has made face coverings mandatory for pupils aged 12 and over from the start of the new schoolyear.

Teenagers will have to wear face coverings for most of the day at school.  Only during breaks outside and during sports can the coverings be removed.  The measure isn’t popular among pupils.

Prod Vlieghe: “I don’t like to say it, not even to my own children, but I’m afraid it could be like this all schoolyear.  We’re going to have to get used to it, but in the course of the year we will learn a lot about it. We may adopt new habits.  We will get used to it and more comfortable coverings may appear on the market. Hopefully it will only be for one year!”

Virologist Steven Van Gucht of the national crisis centre has also defended the introduction of mandatory face coverings in schools.  He says the measure will allow more pupils to attend schools and reduce the amount of online learning.

Prof Van Gucht also explained that under 12s were less contagious and may not always wear a mask properly.

Earlier Flemish education minister Ben Weyts (Flemish nationalist) told lawmakers that pupils in secondary schools would have to wear a covering in all closed environments. The measure was needed because of the difficulty of maintaining a social distance of 1.5 metres in class.  Mr Weyts pointed to the result of a survey that shows that twenty percent of pupils, teachers and parents are worried, even afraid.

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