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Health officials back student mask wearing, SafeKey use

Mask Protest: Pressure group Us For Them Bermuda hand out "Worn Under Protest" stickers against mandatory mask wearing for schoolchildren (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Health officials last night defended masks for schoolchildren and the continued use of the SafeKey system for bars and restaurants, even though the Cabinet continued to discuss changing coronavirus restrictions.

Kim Wilson, the health minister, and Ayo Oyinloye, the Chief Medical Officer, last night backed the use of masks.

They said the island’s health precautions should not be compared with England, where a string of restrictions – including masks in schools – have been dropped.

Ms Wilson told The Royal Gazette there was “overwhelming scientific evidence that supports the wearing of masks to minimise the transmission of the virus”.

She added that, unlike England, the island had a single hospital which had to be protected against being overwhelmed.

Ms Wilson said: “We are not comparing apples and apples. We are talking about two very different countries.”

Dr Oyinloye said it was debatable in the UK “how much of that is following good science and how much is political”.

“In Bermuda, a lot of people live in multi generational households.

“We have plenty of evidence to show where transmission happen in a child care setting and people took it back home to cause outbreaks.”

He added: “What applies in the UK can’t be transferred hook, line and sinker to Bermuda.”

Dr Oyinloye admitted there was now “more appetite by the Cabinet” to relax precautions.

“He said: ”We are looking at all the data we have to see where we can make adjustments.

“All of us are agreed, it’s better for children to stay in education having face to face learning.”

Dr Oyinloye added the Omicron variant of the coronavirus thrived in the upper part of the body’s airways, which made masks – including double masking – effective in cutting transmission.

A schools campaign group, Us For Them Bermuda, said that it was “disappointed that once again no evidence was offered to back up the Government's stringent masking policy on children”.

Ms Wilson said she was not aware of attempts by Us For Them Bermuda to meet her, but added she was “sure we could facilitate that”.

UFTB, which has fielded complaints from parents over extended mask wearing and quarantines for schoolchildren, said last night: “While the minister repeatedly says there is `overwhelming scientific evidence’, her ministry has never provided any and the UK government reached a different conclusion.

“While the CMO suggested double-masking, to our knowledge no study on double masking against Omicron has even been undertaken, let alone one focused on school-aged children."

Ms Wilson also backed the SafeKey requirement for entry to restaurants and bars.

She added that the Government had discussed its use with the Chamber of Commerce and heard their concerns over “the impact on their industry”.

She added that David Burt, the Premier, would make a statement next Friday that would outline “a number of matters that Cabinet has considered as it relates to moving forward to living with the coronavirus”.

Ms Wilson said there were increased health risks in places where alcohol was consumed and where customers raised their voices.

She added: “If you’re in a bar and have music around you, you’re probably going to elevate your voice. That helps to cause more spray. There are increased risks in those atmospheres.”

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Published January 28, 2022 at 7:56 am (Updated January 28, 2022 at 7:34 am)

Health officials back student mask wearing, SafeKey use

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