The return of a requirement in England for secondary pupils to wear face masks in class has sparked a backlash at the start of the new term, but several EU countries have already adopted the measure even for primary school children.
Some Conservative MPs and parents’ groups have objected to the move, warning of a long-term impact of masks on children’s mental health and arguing that they they will have a longer-term effect on people’s ability to learn and socialise.
In countries such as 法国, 然而, where a mask mandate for pupils aged 11 and over was reimposed in November after a brief relaxation at the start of the new school year, face coverings have been compulsory in all primary schools since 15 十二月.
The measure, previously applicable to children aged six and over only in areas with a particularly high incidence, has not so far met with significant resistance during a record-breaking surge in infections fuelled by the Omicron variant.
Catherine Nave-Bekhti, the general secretary of the Sgen-CFDT teachers’ union, said the requirement was “a reasonable and logical precaution given the current dynamic of the epidemic – the objective, 毕竟, is to close as few classes as possible”.
With infections exceeding 200,000 一天, children aged six and over are also now required to wear masks in indoor places open to the public, including shops, cinemas, sports complexes, trains and buses, and outside in big cities such as Paris and Lyon.
Unless the entire class has been vaccinated, Italy has also required all pupils aged six and over to wear a mask indoors at school since last year, 尽管 希腊 extended the mandate to nursery school children – with masks to be changed three times a day.
Belgium made mask wearing mandatory for all children over the age of six, including at school, in early December, with the health minister, Frank Vandenbroucke, saying the key lay in “stopping the engine” of viral transmission among children.
Spain has also required all school children over the age of six to wear face masks in class since the start of the new academic year in September, when the country was recording the highest Covid incidence rate in western 欧洲.
The rule has generally met little resistance, although the far-right Vox party has sought to make political capital out of opposing it, warning that continued mask wearing by children “could be counter-productive” and affect development.
“Almost all children over six have worn masks without rejecting it, they’ve normalised it,” said Mireia Orgilés, the author of a study on the psychological impact of the pandemic on young people in 意大利 and Spain.
“If we explain it to them well, they can understand it and follow the rules. A lot of the time they can accept it more easily than adults,” Orgilés told the specialist publication El Diario de la Educación.
在 德国, where federal states can set their own rules, mask requirements have been reimposed as the Omicron surge looms. Masks are mandatory inside all school buildings for all age groups, but can be taken off for exams and presentations.
Not all European countries have followed suit: pupils in Swedish schools are not required to wear masks. The state epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, said on Monday school closures were possible – but not nationwide – when term starts next week.
Schools in 瑞典 have instead been told to take preventive measures such as spending time outdoors, emphasising good hand hygiene, avoiding crowding, and ensuring pupils stay at home if they develop coronavirus symptoms.
” 瑞士, 也, does not require masks to be worn at school, although children over 12 must wear them on public transport, and Poland has so far refrained from imposing a mask mandate on pupils but warned on Monday new restrictions could be imminent.
In the US, where many schools that would normally welcome students back to classrooms are delaying their start dates by a few days and mandating a negative test, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance suggests masking in schools.
Policies vary radically across states, 然而, with more than half having no set strategy but leaving the decision up to local and county governments. Eight states, primarily in the south of the country, have moved to ban mask mandates in schools.
As the Omicron variant sweeps the country, teachers were scrambling on Monday to test pupils and staff: all staff and public school students in Washington DC, 例如, must upload a negative test result administered no later than Tuesday to the district’s website before class begins on Wednesday.
A recent German study found that requiring children – and particularly adults – to wear face masks in schools can potentially decrease Covid-19 outbreaks at schools, since clusters were generally more severe when an adult was the source.
Martina Sombetzki, the lead author, said the results showed “mandatory masking of teachers and caregivers and children at schools in the 2020 到 2021 school year each resulted in a significant reduction in the number of transmissions.”