The president of the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) said GPs were “too busy” with parents asking for notes to excuse their children from wearing a mask.
rom today, sStudents are expected to apply the new mask-wearing rule to pupils from grade three and above, but if problems arise, they are asked to deal “in a practical and sensitive manner” with parents.
According to the directives issued overnight, primary school principals now have the flexibility to excuse pupils from wearing face coverings if they feel they are “inappropriate” to a child’s needs.
It gives school leaders a level of discretion intended to avoid confrontation with parents who object to the requirement, which will be in effect until at least mid-February.
The policy allows for medical exemptions and principal’s discretion, but also states that a child will be excluded from school if they refuse to wear a mask without an exemption.
“The general practitioners were very busy [last week] Dr Marie Favier, President of the ICGP and member of Nphet, told RTÉ Radio One in Morning Ireland.
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Asked if she agreed with this new regulation, Dr Favier said: “There is no single answer to preventing and stopping the spread of Covid but masking is definitely part of it.
“As GPs, we are of the opinion that young people in general are very able to wear masks and that the expansion of the masking policy in schools has been generally welcome.
“If it helps at all to prevent the spread of Covid, that’s a perfect fit.”
The new Department of Education’s guidance, issued as a series of FAQs, states: “When implementing a public health measure, it is not intended that any child be excluded by the school in the first place.
“Solutions focused engagement should take place between the school and the child’s parents/guardians with a view to solving problems that may arise.”
If important issues are not resolved locally, schools are asked to contact the department and a support inspector will provide.
The guidelines for wearing masks in primary schools also address the difficulties faced by students who rely on lip-reading as a means of communication.
It states that masks should be considered as face masks/coverings are a barrier to communication for students with hearing impairments. Schools are required to use their judgment in such cases.
The advice acknowledges that wearing a face covering for extended periods of time can be a challenge for young children, and advises schools to arrange regular breaks and make it easier for children to take a break in the fresh air wherever possible.
It also identifies situations in which pupils do not have to wear masks, including when they are eating lunch, participating in PE activities, playing sports, singing or playing an instrument,
At Castle Park Private Primary School in Dalkey, Co. Dublin, Principal Stephen McKiernan gives pupils a choice about wearing face coverings.
“I have encouraged children who are comfortable wearing masks to do so, along with talking about effective use of masks,” he said. “We provide masks for any child who needs them.
“I could not force myself to exclude or abandon a child who might be under stress by forcing them to wear a mask or have speech and language difficulties.
“I think mask-wearing is very effective, along with monitored HEPA filters in every classroom. The latter should be a priority for the government.”
The school required HEPA filters for all semesters.
Meanwhile, Dr. Favier said she expects the vaccination program to be rolled out to under-12s in the “number of weeks ahead,” however, no dates or arrangements have been set yet.”
“GPs are always very enthusiastic about vaccination and we have a lot of experience encouraging younger age groups to get vaccinated even the very old,” she said.
“If there was evidence that this age group was vaccinated, we would be supportive of the fact that it could be another layer that makes a difference and all of these things add up.
“It is likely that this will be implemented in the next number of weeks but no dates or arrangements have been set yet.
When asked if she thinks children should be vaccinated before those who qualify for a booster dose, she said that this “nak [National Immunisation Advisory Committee] resolution”.
The Nphet member said she expects the number of children being reported to have Covid-19 as more people are submitted for testing.
“It’s probably going to go up because more testing is done and we know there’s been a lot of infection in the younger age group because they haven’t been vaccinated,” she said.
“Increasing testing will give us an answer to the actual numbers.
“The GPs are so busy with children with symptoms of a viral and respiratory infection type that we need to try to figure out that is Covid, is it a respiratory virus or is it influenza?
So a growing number [of children] Sent for exams since September/October. “
The Irish Independent reported last week that NEFT members must now seek permission from the government to appear on television and radio.
When asked by Morning Ireland if she should get permission to appear on the show, Nphet member Dr Favier said: “No, I’ve seen the reports over the weekend about communications issues but I had absolutely no further contact and would be surprised if she did in the sense My role is to represent the general practice and each of us in the community and to provide that voice.
“Communication is a challenge at any time, getting it right and how we work together to make that happen is for the greater good and patient care, and I think we need to keep that in mind.”
while, Third level students will get free antigen tests, which will be available on university campuses.
Higher and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris has announced €9 million in funding that colleges can draw from to deliver exams.
“The fund is in place to purchase antigen tests and provide them to students free of charge, and it is up to institutions how they decide to do so over the coming months,” said Mr. Harris.
He said the move was based on public health advice regarding multigenerational mixing from the Expert Advisory Group on Rapid Testing.
The fund will be accompanied by an awareness campaign on antigen testing.