Siyanda Ndlovu
Digital Journalist
2 minute read
5 May 2022
4:41 pm

Health dept makes U-turn on mask requirements for school children

Siyanda Ndlovu

On Wednesday the department emphasized the importance of wearing a mask in public indoor places but exempted school children from this.

Picture: iStock

The Department of Health has made a sudden u-turn and described the blunder of mask-wearing by school children as a “regrettable human error” in a media statement issued on Thursday.

In the statement on Wednesday night, the department emphasized the importance of wearing a mask in public indoor places but exempted school children from this.

“With regards to wearing a face mask, a person must, when entering and being inside an indoor public place, wear a face mask. This does not apply to children at school,” reads the statement.

However, in the gazette, it is stated that all basic education institutions were exempt from complying with regulations related to indoor gatherings.

“The Department would… like to bring to the public attention the confusion created by unfortunate and regrettable human error in the media statement issued yesterday (Wednesday) about the removal of face mask-wearing by children at school.

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This is not part of the gazetted health regulations, and is therefore retracted to avoid any misunderstanding of the regulations.”

On Thursday it said that: “Children like other people are expected to continue complying with the provisions of Regulation 16A on face masks in the classrooms and general indoor gatherings, unlike outdoors in playgrounds and sports fields.

Face masks are an effective non-pharmaceutical intervention against the spread of the Covid-19 virus, and it is more relevant now as the number of Covid-19 positive cases is rising once again.”

Health Department’s deputy director-general, Doctor Nicholas Crisp had on Thursday told talk radio 702 presenter Bongani Bingwa during an interview that children would no longer be required to wear masks at school.

“We regard them as a place of learning where we want the children to be as free and able to move as possible,” said Crisp.

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“But where there are sick people or people who want to wear a mask, that would be encouraged but if they are in the classroom and there’s sufficient social distancing, then they will not need to wear a mask on school premises.”

He said that implementing mask-wearing for children has always been difficult.

“It’s always been a challenge with small children and even with some older children it’s been a bit of a restriction and so the wearing of masks is less of a concern to us in that particular environment,” Crisp said.