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Why masks WON'T reduce spread of Covid in Australian primary schools

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 23/01/2022 Charlie Coë For Daily Mail Australia

There is little evidence to show face masks reduce the risk of Covid transmission in primary school students, according to one of Australia's former top doctors. 

Masks will be mandatory in Victoria - and 'highly recommended' in NSW - for students in Year 3 when schools return from the summer holidays on January 31.

Ex-deputy chief health officer Nick Coatsworth said the data did not prove masks were particularly effective at protecting children under 11 against the virus.

'I have always been pretty definite on this,' Dr Coatsworth told the Today show. 'I continue to be definite. No masks for primary school students.

'I simply don't think the evidence is there to suggest that it reduces transmission.'

A student is pictured at Glebe Public School in Sydney. Face coverings are 'highly recommended' in NSW when schools return from the summer holidays at the end of January © Provided by Daily Mail A student is pictured at Glebe Public School in Sydney. Face coverings are 'highly recommended' in NSW when schools return from the summer holidays at the end of January

He admitted the issue was a 'grey area' and rules could soon change if authorities notice a significant rise in Covid cases when schools resume.

'Victoria's mandating it - that's fine. In NSW, it is optional - that's fine as well. The evidence is a grey area. Some states may choose to go a little bit further,' he said.

Ex-deputy chief health officer Nick Coatsworth said masks had not been proven to be particularly effective in reducing Covid transmission in young children © Provided by Daily Mail Ex-deputy chief health officer Nick Coatsworth said masks had not been proven to be particularly effective in reducing Covid transmission in young children

'The idea is let's start school. Let's get comfortable again. And then we can review some of these mitigation measures in the coming months.' 

Dr Coatsworth said plans to test every teacher and student for the virus when they return to the classroom would inevitably yield more cases.


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'The pick-up rate will be higher,' he said. 'It is more likely to be a bump in cases than a surge.

'But that's the whole point of the program. We can find out the kids that have the virus with mild symptoms, they can stay home from school and we can limit transmission.'

The NSW state government hopes to have delivered more than six million RATs to 3,000 public, private and religious schools across the state by January 26. Pictured: Students walking to school © Provided by Daily Mail The NSW state government hopes to have delivered more than six million RATs to 3,000 public, private and religious schools across the state by January 26. Pictured: Students walking to school

His comments came as it emerged schools in NSW would no longer close when a Covid case is detected. 

Premier Dominic Perrottet made the announcement at a press conference on Sunday morning, and confirmed that teachers and pupils will be given two free rapid antigen tests every week for the first four weeks of Term 1. 

Face masks will also be made mandatory for all teachers and high school students, with more than eight million surgical masks being delivered to schools.

The massive surveillance testing program is the linchpin of the premier's 'Covid-smart' plan, as the state recorded 20,324 infections and 34 deaths on Sunday.

Other measures include vaccine mandates for all teachers and staff as sport, music, assemblies and even school camping trips are given the green light to go ahead. 

The massive surveillance testing program is the linchpin of Dominic Perrottet's 'Covid-smart' back-to-school plan (pictured: Firbank Grammar student receives a COVID-19 Rapid Antigen test) © Provided by Daily Mail The massive surveillance testing program is the linchpin of Dominic Perrottet's 'Covid-smart' back-to-school plan (pictured: Firbank Grammar student receives a COVID-19 Rapid Antigen test)

The state government hopes to have delivered more than six million rapid antigen tests to 3,000 public, private, and religious schools across NSW by January 26 - even as the rest of Australia faces a supply shortage.

The education minister said: 'We've had more than four million go out already, more than six million will be out by Tuesday evening, in preparation for the return to school for students on the 1 February.' 

Trucks have been on the road 24-hours a day during the past week so schools can prepare to hand out the at-home testing kits to parents before the end of the school holidays.

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