Pressure group demands end to mask wearing in schools
A pressure group is calling on the Ministry of Health to backtrack on what it considers to be excessive and unfair Covid-19 regulations being enforced on children.
The Government reintroduced Phase 1 Covid-19 regulations this week meaning children in lower primary grades will join older students in being required to wear masks at all times while indoors at school.
Us For Them Bermuda representatives are distributing stickers opposing mask wearing for children to the public throughout the week.
A spokeswoman for Us For Them Bermuda, a group launched last September, stood outside Brew café on Front Street yesterday for the second morning in a row giving out the stickers with the words “worn under protest” intended to be placed on face masks.
The mother of two primary aged schoolchildren, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the group reached out to the Ministry of Education six weeks ago only to be told this week to contact the Ministry of Health.
She said: “Lots of people have written to the Ministry of Health and we are now drafting something to send from the group.
“Our point is it should be a parent’s choice whether their child wears a mask. There is enough data now that doesn’t justify what we are doing to children.
“On the flip side, the data about the harm we are doing to them is being reported more and more. Bermuda is just going backwards in that regard. The children have way more restrictions than adults.”
Us For Them Bermuda members have referenced an article in The Atlantic published yesterday that called for an end to mandatory mask wearing for children. It said that World Health Organisation recommendations against children under 5 wearing masks should be adopted over those of the Centres for Disease Control which calls for “universal indoor masking by all students (age 2 and older).”
The group is also calling for the reduction or elimination of close contact quarantine and return from travel regulations.
The spokeswoman added: “We should drastically reduce or eliminate the close contact quarantining as it is out of control and we should reduce or eliminate the return from travel rules – kids are missing so much school when they are perfectly healthy.”
Rebecca Gregory said her children aged 4 and 6 and attending Warwick Academy, are both out of school.
She said: “My eldest daughter tested positive for Covid so she has to quarantine for 10 days. I had Covid at the beginning of the month which meant a 14-day quarantine for the children.
“As a result my perfectly healthy son, who is yet to test positive for Covid, will miss two-and-a-half weeks from a four-week term.
“In the UK this does not happen. Siblings would still be allowed to attend school with a positive case in the household, even if this meant a parent testing positive had to drive that child to school.
“We have lost all sense of perspective in Bermuda and children are suffering as a result. This is just one example of how the education system in Bermuda is failing its students.“
The Government announced this week that there has been an increase in positive cases in younger children. However, the group spokeswoman said this does not change the position of the pressure group which has just over 200 Facebook followers.
“The risk to children is still very low, yes they are testing positive but they are not getting sick and I don’t believe they are in hospital,” the spokeswoman said.
“I wouldn’t want any child to be severely ill by it but Omicron is so much less harmful than the other versions which had virtually zero impact on healthy kids. We can’t live like this for ever and keep punishing children.”
The mother of a 9-year-old girl contacted The Gazette to say that her daughter asked her: “What is the point of being alive if you have to cover your face all day long at school?"
The mother said: “These are very, very strong words for a 9-year-old and ones that should not even be in her head.”
One supporter of the group, the mother of two children, said she had sent her middle school aged child to the UK to study which had opened her eyes to how other countries are living with the virus.
She said: “My daughter lived mask free for the whole term and if there is an outbreak like Omicron, they wear masks in corridors and assemblies. It has worked well.
“My youngest daughter is still in Bermuda. In her year group there was one case in December so they sent them all off for PCR testing. I think in total there were five or six positive cases and they took out the entire year.”
The mother also has concerns about difficulties children have learning languages and communication brought on by masks hiding the mouth and facial expressions.
She also referenced a Unicef report about declining school test results during the pandemic which says more than one billion children are at risk of falling behind because of school closures.
Another mother and supporter of the group said that masking causes harm without proven benefit.
She said: “My son would told me he couldn’t understand what his teacher was saying when she was wearing her face mask and shield.
“She was getting frustrated and telling the children they need to listen better. People say if you are against masks you don’t take the virus seriously but that is not the case.
“I know members of group who are fully vaccinated, they just want to do what is best for their children.”