TIME TO MASK UP IN SCHOOL

But some say it’s too lit­tle too late

East Kilbride News - - FRONT PAGE - FRASER WIL­SON

Young­sters will be made to wear face cov­er­ings in our schools from next week.

That was the guid­ance handed down from Holy­rood on Tues­day as Scot­land steps up its fight against the spread of coro­n­avirus.

But for some, the de­ci­sion has come too late, with many EK News read­ers say­ing the dam­age may al­ready have been done.

First Min­is­ter Ni­cola Stur­geon told the coun­try on Mon­day that the move was likely – that was con­firmed by her Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary, John Swin­ney, on Tues­day morn­ing. He said the new guid­ance would ap­ply to all pupils aged over 12 and would come into ef­fect from Au­gust 31.

Kids will also be ex­pected to wear face cov­er­ings if trav­el­ling on school trans­port. Ms Stur­geon had pre­vi­ously said: “The best way to en­sure schools can stay open safely is for all of us to play our part in keep­ing trans­mis­sion rates in the com­mu­nity as low as pos­si­ble.”

On Tues­day morn­ing, Mr Swin­ney said: “It’s part of the gen­eral mea­sures we are tak­ing to en­sure we keep pace with the emerg­ing ad­vice about how to keep our schools open and to keep our schools safe.”

The move means high school pupils across East Kil­bride and the wider area will have to cover their faces in cor­ri­dors and com­mu­nal ar­eas of sec­ondary schools.

Face cov­er­ings will not be manda­tory in class­rooms and chil­dren in pri­mary schools or nurs­eries are ex­empt from the rul­ing.

The gov­ern­ment changed its tact on the mat­ter in re­sponse to new guid­ance from the World Health

Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO), who is­sued fresh guid­ance over the week­end say­ing that chil­dren over the age of 12 should wear masks.

The use of face cov­er­ings in schools here is cur­rently vol­un­tary, although some schools have started ad­vis­ing staff and pupils to wear them to help com­bat the spread of COVID-19.

Ms Stur­geon said there was more mix­ing be­tween dif­fer­ent groups of chil­dren in these ar­eas, and that there was less scope for ef­fec­tive ven­ti­la­tion.

Pupils are also thought to be more likely to raise their voices in crowded places, in­creas­ing the risk of aerosol trans­mis­sion of the virus.

The gov­ern­ment is also said to be con­sid­er­ing whether to make masks manda­tory on school trans­port.

Coun­cil­lor Mar­garet Cooper, leader of the In­de­pen­dent Group in South La­nark­shire, wel­comed the de­ci­sion, adding that it should have been in place ear­lier.

She told the News: “I think this is a wel­come move for ev­ery­one’s safety.

“It is a pity that it was not in­tro­duced from the out­set.

“Young peo­ple seem quite com­fort­able with the idea and it goes in with re­quire­ments out in the com­mu­nity.

“I would say we need our shops and take­aways to re­in­force this step when young peo­ple are out at lunchtime in lo­cal take­away shops. We need uni­for­mity in ap­proach.”

The de­ci­sion comes as the News be­comes in­creas­ingly aware of anec­do­tal ev­i­dence of high school pupils gath­er­ing out­side schools in large num­bers, with­out so­cial dis­tanc­ing in place.

This was the con­cern of many when the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment an­nounced it was to send our kids back to school at the start of this month with­out the re­quire­ment for so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

One EK News reader told us: “I’m con­cerned about the re­turn to school so soon.

“I made the mis­take of go­ing to Tesco’s in St Leonards at school out time and it was full of school kids with­out masks, stand­ing in large groups in­side and out the shop­ping area.

“They swarmed along the streets just like be­fore the virus, ab­so­lutely no so­cial dis­tanc­ing go­ing on any­where, ap­par­ently is the same at lunchtime – it made me very scared and un­com­fort­able.”

Tak­ing to Face­book to com­ment on the First Min­is­ter’s an­nounce­ment ear­lier this week, Clair Do­rans said: “Point­less, when they go to the shops/take­aways for lunch they go in groups and there is no so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

“Just seen a group of about 20 school kids at a wee deli in the vil­lage all stand­ing out­side chat­ting, not one of them had a mask on.”

A grow­ing num­ber of school pupils across Scot­land have tested pos­i­tive for COVID-19, with three pupils test­ing pos­i­tive in High Blan­tyre Pri­mary School.

In­ci­dents have been flagged up at a num­ber of schools fur­ther afield, but the gov­ern­ment be­lieves the in­fec­tion has been trans­mit­ted in other set­tings such as house par­ties.

Scot­tish Labour health and so­cial care spokes­woman, Mon­ica Len­non, said she had been “in­un­dated” with con­cerns from teach­ers and par­ents, who she says are “wor­ried and con­fused” about the vague ad­vice on so­cial dis­tanc­ing and face cov­er­ings for school pupils.

She told the News: “School staff have voiced their safety con­cerns over lax so­cial dis­tanc­ing rules and the use of face cov­er­ings for months now.

“John Swin­ney has been dis­tracted by the SQA fi­asco and has not kept up with in­ter­na­tional ev­i­dence on coro­n­avirus in school set­tings.

“Min­is­ters can’t keep mak­ing up rules as they go along and they must pub­lish the ev­i­dence base for their de­ci­sions so this can be prop­erly scru­ti­nised.

“It’s also im­por­tant that pupils from low in­come fam­i­lies have ac­cess to face cov­er­ings if needed.”

Both South La­nark­shire and East Ren­frew­shire coun­cils said they would be ready to im­ple­ment the new guid­ance.

A SLC ed­u­ca­tion spokesman added: “We note the guid­ance and will work with our schools and trans­port providers to en­sure com­pli­ance across our schools.

EK News reader, Joanna Mackillen, said on Face­book that COVID-19 “doesn’t do age, ev­ery­one can catch it” and that masks should be a def­i­nite “at school, on buses, at shops, and any pub­lic places”.

How­ever, Jaymie Smil­lie said she was “not okay with this,” adding that if masks are nec­es­sary now, they “were two weeks ago when schools re­opened”.

New guid­ance First Min­is­ter Ni­cola Stur­geon

Cover up Pupils will now wear masks in com­mu­nal ar­eas in high schools

An­nounce­ment Ni­cola Stur­geon

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