Malta has published new COVID-19 guidelines for educational settings, effective as of 25th April, after which mask-wearing will no longer be mandatory.
The Health Ministry’s new guidelines apply to childcare centres, kindergartens, primary schools, secondary schools and tertiary schools.
“It will no longer be mandatory to wear a mask in schools,” the guidelines state.
“However, individuals are free to make their own assessment of risk for themselves and for their children given that evidence to date still shows that wearing a mask is an effective means of preventing viral spread to others in conjunction with maintaining an adequate physical distance from others.”
“As yet, there is no evidence that face shields are effective as source control or protection from respiratory droplets as masks thus, masks should be used.”
Individual schools will still be free to choose to make mask-wearing mandatory among their students and staff but this will no longer be official advice.
Meanwhile, schools are advised to make mask-wearing mandatory on school transport.
Other COVID-19 recommendations, including temperature screening outside the school entrance, hand hygiene and sending sick children home, have remained in force.
The updated guidelines come with a clear proviso that they are meant to reduce, and not eliminate, the risk of COVID-19 transmission within schools.
“Although the risk of infection is reduced, it can never be completely eliminated. Policymakers, the educational sector, parents/guardians and students need to understand that a risk of transmission will still exist and even if these guidelines are rigorously followed and implemented.”
The PN’s new Education Spokesperson Justin Schembri welcomed the news, noting he had proposed an end to obligatory masks at the start of the month “because I believe that we should let everyone make their own decisions”.
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