A high school has brought back a Covid mask mandate more than six months after they were entirely scrapped across the country, sparking backlash.
Liverpool Girls’ High School in Sydney’s southwest announced on Tuesday that Year 9, 10 and 11 students would have to work from home immediately, while all staff and students still in school would have to wear masks.
The school initially announced a five-day mask mandate for all pupils amid a small outbreak in Covid cases, before sending some students home when numbers increased.
The last remnants of widespread mask rules, requiring them to be used on international flights and on public transport, were removed in Australia in September last year.
Dr Nick Coatsworth, who is well known as the face of the government’s Covid vaccine rollout, told Daily Mail Australia that mask rules being reintroduced at the school was worrying.
‘That is a problem. No child at an Australian school should be compelled to wear a mask,’ the former Australian deputy chief health officer said.
Liverpool Girls’ High School, which has about 900 students, has reintroduced learning from home for some students and mask mandates for others amid a small Covid outbreak
Former deputy chief health officer Dr Nick Coatsworth told Daily Mail Australia that ‘no child at an Australian school should be compelled to wear a mask’
Liverpool Girls’ High School introduced the measures after recently having a high number of students test positive to Covid.
They initially advised that as of Monday this week all students, staff and visitors to the school would need to wear masks for the next five days.
But on Tuesday afternoon, when more students tested positive, they asked years 9, 10 and 11 to learn from home from Wednesday until Friday.
Years 7, 8 and 12 are still attending school in person and are required to wear masks.
One parent who asked to remain anonymous told Daily Mail Australia that she doesn’t want to see a return to the draconian restrictions imposed during the Covid pandemic.
‘There was no consultation with parents at all,’ she said.
‘No one else in the community is being forced to wear masks again so it doesn’t seem fair our kids are.’
She added that she was told students who refuse to wear masks would be sent to the deputy principal’s office and their parents will be called .
‘It’s quite frustrating as my daughter is in year 10 and doesn’t like home schooling,’ she said.
‘We’re just hoping it doesn’t get worse over the winter period and result in all the kids learning from home again.
‘I think we need to learn to live with it and treat it as we would a cold or flu. I’m not angry, I just find it frustrating because it makes it hard for the kids.’
Professor Peter Collignon previously told Daily Mail Australia masks made little difference to Covid epidemics in the community (stock image)
Dr Coatsworth has previously been a vocal opponent of masks rules in schools saying there was an ‘overemphasis on the benefits of masking kids’.
‘You’re not actually protecting the kids themselves because it’s a very, very mild disease in children with or without the vaccine,’ he said.
While there could be a risk of a child passing the virus onto a frail relative, he said with proper precautions such as washing hands, rapid antigen tests and vaccines the added benefit of masks in children was low.
‘I have trouble communicating with my patients (while wearing a mask). It’s hard for them to hear me, it’s hard for them to know who I am, and if that’s hard for me then I can only conclude that it would be detrimental to kids.’
Infectious diseases expert Peter Collignon told Daily Mail Australia: ‘Masks don’t really make a difference to community epidemic curves, though they do provide some personal protection’.
‘Probably not as big a reduction (in exposure to infection) as people think – it’s not an 80 per cent reduction, probably closer to 10 per cent.’
Meanwhile, another NSW school, Orange High School in the state’s central-west, also announced learning from home will take place for students in Year 7 through to Year 10 this week amid a small outbreak of Covid cases.
The announcement impacts one grade each day – though year 11 and year 12 students will be exempt from the guideline.
Principal Ali McLennan wrote to parents: ‘Due to the impact of COVID-19 some of our students and teaching staff cannot attend school.
‘The positive COVID-19 cases have particularly impacted our staff.’
‘Students who cannot learn from home will be provided supervision should they attend school,’ Ms McLennan added.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Liverpool Girls’ High School, the NSW education department and Premier Chris Minns’ office for comment.
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk