Face masks to be scrapped after Easter in NI schools, says McIlveen

Face coverings will no longer be required in Northern Ireland’s post-primary schools from next month.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 26th March 2022, 1:27 pm
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 1/9/2020: 
Pupils from Dominic's Grammar School in Belfast,  wearing  masks today  as over 300,000 Northern Ireland schoolchildren returned to school today for the first time since the Coronavirus lockdown began.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 1/9/2020: Pupils from Dominic's Grammar School in Belfast, wearing masks today as over 300,000 Northern Ireland schoolchildren returned to school today for the first time since the Coronavirus lockdown began. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

The requirement for pupils to wear face coverings in classrooms was removed on March 21.

Yesterday, Stormont Education Minister Michelle McIlveen announced that they will not be required on post-primary school premises when pupils return after the Easter break.

In a statement to the Assembly, Ms McIlveen said the further change in policy “takes place in the context of a broadly improving epidemiological landscape in schools”.

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However she warned that the virus is continuing to circulate in communities and schools.

“We should continue to reduce the risks of Covid in our schools through the range of other mitigating measures that remain in place to protect all pupils and staff,” she said.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), a trade union representing school principals, also highlighted the high infection rates.

NAHT Northern Ireland director Dr Graham Gault said: “No-one wants to see our children or staff wearing masks in school for longer than is necessary, but we must remember that some schools are still dealing with very high levels of Covid and very high levels of pupil and staff absence.”

He added: “Schools will continue to work within the guidance to make sure that the actions they are taking are in line with public health advice, but it is also vital that the government continues to work closely with the profession.”

The Department of Health notified five further deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for Covid-19, as well as another 1,910 confirmed cases of the virus.

Yesterday morning there were 528 Covid-19 patients in hospital, with seven in intensive care.

The latest weekly figures, meanwhile, were also published by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) yesterday, showing another 25 fatalities.

The NISRA figures, which cover the week ending March 18, take the total number of coronavirus-linked fatalities to 4,403.

The statistics differ from those published by the Department of Health in that they are based on information entered on death certificates by medical professionals, rather than deaths following a positive test result.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Robin Swann has thanked Northern Ireland researchers involved in a clinical trial for anti-viral treatments for coronavirus.

More than 850 people from Northern Ireland are included in the 19,000 across the UK who have signed up for the world-leading University of Oxford study which has been set up to rapidly evaluate antiviral treatments that could help people at high risk of COVID-19 to recover sooner, preventing the need for hospital admission.

The minister praised the work of the trial team based at the Northern Ireland Clinical Research Network (NICRN) in Belfast, adding: “PANORAMIC has been the fastest recruiting clinical trial on record.”

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