Keeping windows open in primary schools will stop Covid spread better than wearing masks

Friday, 26th February 2021, 11:24 am
Updated Friday, 26th February 2021, 11:24 am
Keeping windows open in primary schools will stop Covid spread better than wearing masks (Photo: Shutterstock)

Making sure that windows are left open to allow maximum ventilation is a more effective way of reducing the spread of Covid in primary schools than requiring young children to wear face coverings, according to one of the Government’s scientific advisors.

While the Department for Education has advised primary schools not to ask students to wear masks, there are schools which have made face covering a requirement at all times, other than during exercise and while eating or drinking.

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One primary school in London which has made face coverings a requirement said that the decision was taken “based on keeping our staff, pupils and their families safe in the current situation”.

Is there a better alternative?

However, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) told BBC Radio 4 that he is “not a fan” of that approach, and suggested that improving ventilation is a much better option.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Professor Calum Semple said: “Primary school children are the lowest risk both to themselves and to society.

“There is really good data coming out … that shows that children are half as likely to acquire the virus to a third as likely to acquire the virus.

“When it comes to transmitting, they are probably half as likely to transmit it as adults.

“That risk actually gets smaller as you go into younger age groups. So I am not a great fan of young children wearing face masks.”

Prof Semple said he believed that young children would find it difficult to wear masks properly without significant disruption. Instead, he said, schools should look at ways to increase ventilation.

He added: “If I had to invest in a single activity to improve the environment both for the children and the adults, I’d be looking at improving the ventilation, unsealing windows that have been painted shut and kept shut for energy-saving reasons … improving air exchanges.

“That would be a much more effective way to reduce transmission in schools.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Children in primary schools should not be asked to wear face coverings when they return to school from March 8.

“Our guidance is clear – face coverings are only necessary for pupils in year 7 and above.”