‘Premature!’ Plans for pupils to wear face masks in secondary schools spark backlash

Covid: Professor says ‘you don’t’ catch Covid outside

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Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, 54, confirmed mask-wearing will be reintroduced across England in an attempt to “maximise the number of children in school”. But ex-Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, 67, suggested the data on mask-wearing in classrooms remains “premature”.

Speaking to the Telegraph, the Chingford & Woodford Green MP said the data showed “we’ve got to hold our nerve”.

“I think this move is premature.

“I think we’ll see Covid spike and start to fall like it did in South Africa.”

He continued: “It’s far better to test pupils than to mandate masks.

“They will be worn badly and won’t stop contact between kids.

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“I don’t know who they’re going to protect – the teachers should be triple jabbed by now.

“It’s very important that the schooling isn’t wrecked as a result of this.”

North West Leicestershire’s Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, 57, added: “I think the children have suffered immeasurably during this pandemic and these measures are taken to try and protect others.

“I honestly feel that the legacy of Covid is going to be the damage we’ve done to our children.”

The chairman of the Education Select Committee Robert Halfon, 52, echoed the concerns of his Conservative colleagues.

The Harlow MP also called on Boris Johnson, 57, to balance the risk of COVID-19 with the mental health and well-being of children in the long-term.

However, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting, 38, told Sky News mask-wearing could prove vital in ensuring pupils can be taught in schools.

“I think in terms of schools, if the choice is between having masks at schools or children missing schools in huge numbers, of course we want to keep pupils learning,” he said.

Despite Mr Streeting’s comments, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) claimed there were clear downsides to mandating face coverings.

Professor Russell Viner from UCL said: “There are clear downsides to wearing masks but the biggest downside of all would be children not being in school.”

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Professor Viner added he only supported the move with a “very heavy heart”.

Dame Rachel de Souza, the Children’s Commissioner for England, also expressed concern about mask-wearing lasting for longer than it is needed.

She suggested it would be the “lesser of two evils” to have mask mandates in the short-term but added: “I worry that it is just another case where we’re expecting children to take the hit rather than anyone else in society, and it just seems a bit unfair.”

The UK recorded 137,583 daily COVID-19 cases on January 2.

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