Primary school students in Ireland will not have to wear face masks, Department of Health confirms
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Primary school students in Ireland will not have to wear face masks, Department of Health confirms

PRIMARY SCHOOL students in Ireland will not be required to wear face-masks, the Department of Health confirmed on Thursday.

As schools continue to gradually reopen across the country this month, there have been growing fears about the safety of both students and teachers.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) had asked the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) to review whether primary pupils should wear masks, especially with junior infants to second-class returning this week.

After an assessment, HIQA determined that transmission between children, and onwards to households, has been low throughout the pandemic, reducing the necessity for protection.

They also noted that mask-wearing may exacerbate anxiety or breathing difficulties for some students.

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HIQA's deputy CEO Dr Mairin Ryan said that parents and children "may choose" that a child wear a mask at school on the basis of an individual assessment of the benefits and harms, but stressed that the practice wouldn't be mandatory.

"There is concern regarding the potential harms or disadvantages associated with face-mask use," she said.

"For example, the potential for anxiety or the potential for negative impacts on development of human communication and language skills, particularly for very young children."

Dr Ryan said that after considering all of this, they would not be advising change to the guidance on mandatory mask-wearing.