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Anti-school mask group say education officials prepared to meet

Mask protest: the pressure group Us For Them Bermuda is against mandatory mask wearing for children at school, among other regulations (Photograph supplied)

Education officials are prepared to meet a pressure group opposed to mandatory mask wearing and other Covid-19 precautions in schools, the organisation said yesterday.

A spokeswoman for Us For Them Bermuda said that Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, had agreed to forward the group’s questions to the health ministry and talk to the campaign.

She added: “We would like to speak with the Government because we want better policies for our children.

“The Ministry of Education had told us previously that we should reach out to the Ministry of Health, but since then came back to the group and indicated that there is a willingness to meet.”

The spokeswoman said that the group wanted more explanation of the Government’s Covid-19 rules for schoolchildren, which they said were stricter than those for adults.

She added: “We would like to know what research they are relying on for mask wearing for children.

“We would like to know what research there is about the protection masks provide against Omicron and we would like to know what metrics they need to see in order to relax the policy on masks.

“We have seen a big change from last year compared to this year with so many more people vaccinated, yet children’s restrictions have become tighter. We are hoping for progress.”

Us For Them Bermuda is opposed to other regulations aimed at children, including close-contact quarantine rules and return-from-travel restrictions.

Health officials defended the Government’s Covid-19 policies for children and highlighted there had been an increase in cases detected in younger schoolchildren.

The Government last month moved schools back to Phase 1 — the strictest set of rules.

Kim Wilson, the health minister, said at the time that the island had a major risk factor because it was a small island with only one general hospital — which could be overwhelmed in a large-scale outbreak.

Ayo Oyinloye, the Chief Medical Officer, added that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus thrived in the upper part of people’s airways, which made masks — including double masking — an effective way to cut transmission.

Dr Oyinloye said that a lot of people in Bermuda lived in multigenerational households and that there was evidence that transmission in childcare settings had caused infections in the children’s homes.

But the spokeswoman questioned how other small jurisdictions had balanced the educational needs of children and similar limitations in hospital capacity.

She asked: “So kids have to be extra careful not to bring it home. But why are the adults in these multigenerational homes not similarly restricted?

“They can go to a workplace, a café or a bar, hang around mask-free and then go home. Could they not similarly expose the at-risk person?

“Bermuda's schoolchildren are currently testing twice a week before they can even attend school.

“But even though they repeatedly prove they don't have the virus, they must still be masked all day too?”

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Published February 02, 2022 at 7:55 am (Updated February 03, 2022 at 2:16 pm)

Anti-school mask group say education officials prepared to meet

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