A statement from the Department of Education “strongly recommended” mask-wearing in post-primary schools, however education minister Michelle McIlveen said she wants to remove the requirement as soon as possible.
Speaking this morning on BBC Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster programme, Mr Wilson said there was “overwhelming evidence” as to why masks should not have to be worn by children.
He said: “There are now a large number of studies, in fact there are about 167 studies now which show that first of all, face masks are not really all that effective in stopping the spread of the disease, but even more worryingly, from Spain, Germany, we haven’t done any studies here in Northern Ireland but from other countries, America, other countries in the world, that actually wearing face masks does do damage to children.
“It does damage to children in terms of the irritation which it causes, giving them headaches, lack of concentration, reluctance to go to school, impairing learning and of course we all know that if you restrict the intake of oxygen then it’s going to have those kinds of side effects.
“With all of the evidence which there is in place, and the decisions which we’ve made for the rest of society, schools should not be treated any different.”
Mr Wilson went on to say that a number of studies showed that face masks had no significant impact on stopping the spread of Covid: “You can argue all day about the effects of wearing a face mask, the fact is the health minister has made a decision that you can go to a football match, you can go shopping, you can go to a pub, a restaurant and not wear a face mask, and therefore I think Michelle is right when she says the next step should be to remove them from schools.”
Justin McCamphill of teaching union NASUWT said: “It was always guidance and we’re still in that position. The health minister wants it to continue as guidance.
“I think it would be a big mistake to remove it in schools.
“We’ve had 4,133 cases of Covid in schools last week, therefore it’s important that we continue to have a range of mitigations including masks where required.
“I think Sammy’s contribution was more of a polemic against masks than actually protecting young people and teachers.”
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