The New South Wales Deputy Premier has slammed Victoria’s ‘crazy’ new rule mandating mask wearing for primary school children.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton announced on Friday that children in Year three and above will need to wear a mask while indoors at schools, and kids from Prep to Year two are ‘strongly recommended’ to wear a mask.
The rule sparked a heated response from NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole, who said he didn’t believe any health advice would support it.
The New South Wales Premier has slammed Victoria’s ‘crazy’ new rule of enforcing primary school children to wear face masks (pictured: students wearing masks in Victoria)
‘I don’t really see the point of that – it’s really going to be constricting those children in that state,’ Mr Toole said to Sky News.
‘It’s a crazy decision and I don’t think there’s health advice that could actually support that decision that is being made.’
‘It’s ludicrous at the end of the day.’
The Deputy Premier, who was previously a primary school teacher in Bathurst before becoming a state member in 2011, added that NSW has a stronger strategy in plan to aid in the return of face-to-face teaching.
‘We’re getting the right balance here in NSW. You know, we’ve got kids that are going back to school on the 18th, we have brought them forward by a week so they will all be back on the 25th of October.’
‘Having homeschooling and online teaching, it’s very difficult, and I think that [school] is the best place for our kids to be.’
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton announced the mandate for children in Year three and above, and argued that there was good evidence to support the measures
Mr Toole said that being a former schoolteacher and having discussed the matter with many of his friends who are still teachers, they want kids back in the classroom.
‘They know that face-to-face teaching is going to provide the best opportunity and the best way of learning for these young people.’
As part of the Covid-19 exit roadmap in NSW, face masks will be required at school in all indoor settings and are recommended while outdoor for students in Year seven and above.
For primary school students, masks will be recommended to be worn indoor and outdoor.
However, the new NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole argued the decision is ‘crazy’ and ‘ludicrous’
Victoria is also implementing measures to get children back into the classrooms.
Mr Sutton said masks will be required indoors at school for those students, while mask-wearing will be ‘strongly recommended’ but not mandated for younger children from prep to grade two.
‘We really want to have these measures in place early on to keep kids in school and to make sure that they are as safe as possible in the school environment,’ he told reporters.
He said face masks, along with ventilation and other COVID-safe measures, had prevented virus transmission in schools overseas.
The Deputy Premier added that NSW has a stronger strategy in plan to aid in the return of face-to-face teaching (Pictured: Parents waiting to collect children from school in Sydney)
‘In many states in America, school mask mandates have been put in place and they have helped to reduce transmission,’ Professor Sutton said.
‘It really has been shown that where there are multiple layers of risk mitigation within the schools, that you can keep a cap on transmission and have kids return safely to that environment.’
Health authorities and the state government are in the process of drafting the mask rules, ahead of a staged return to classrooms in coming weeks.
Students aged 12 and over are already required to wear face masks at school, unless they have an illness, disability or are exempt.
As part of the Covid-19 exit roadmap in NSW, masks will be recommended for primary school students in indoor and outdoor setting but not required
Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital paediatrician Jane Munro said the mask mandate was ‘backed by good science’ and will help prevent student absence.
‘It is simple, it is safe. There are no health risks for a child wearing a mask. It is easy to do and it is also common sense,’ she told reporters.
‘Some people might still be confused about why we need to do this and it is because we want to get kids back to school and keep them there.’
Schools in parts of regional Victoria and year 12 students in Melbourne returned to classrooms this week.
More than one million Victorian children will return to 30,000 classrooms across 2276 schools over the next month, with all students expected to return to onsite learning either full or part-time by October 26.
However, none of the COVID-19 vaccines are currently approved for children aged under 12.
As well as mask wearing, Dr Munro said ventilation, physical distancing and hygiene measures are vital for classrooms to return.
Currently students aged above 12 are forced to wear masks indoors already (pictured, Bentleigh Secondary College)
‘We need to get our kids back at school and keep them at school. We all need to work together as a community to make that happen,’ she said.
She said RCH, with the support of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, was developing resources to help children understand what they need to do to return to school.
Professor Sutton also announced a slight change to mask rules for adults from midnight on Friday, allowing masks to be removed to drink alcohol outdoors at a picnic.