Children have been wearing masks at school for 17 months / R.C.

Paediatricians call on Spanish government to end the mandatory use of masks in classrooms

But some experts believe that adopting this measure could be hasty because coronavirus vaccination coverage in children is still low

JOSÉ ANTONIO GUERRERO

The Spanish Association of Paediatrics (AEP) has proposed a schedule for the progressive removal of masks inside classrooms now that masks are no longer mandatory at break time.

In a document from the AEP’s Working Group for the Reopening of Schooling, the paediatricians propose that from the end of this month the obligation for pupils between six and 18 years of age to wear face masks indoors be dropped.

In the document sent to the health and educational authorities, the children's doctors propose that the need to wear masks in classrooms be rolled back by age group between 28 February for first year primary pupils up to 9 May for students in the last year of secondary school.

Eight million Spanish schoolchildren have been wearing masks indoors for almost 17 months. They became mandatory at all times, including during breaks, when they returned to school in September 2020 after home confinement. On 8 February, the requirement to wear them during breaks in the playground was dropped. During class time, teachers must leave the window open and have the children form bubble groups. The risk of transmission is between 15 and 20 times higher in an indoor space compared to outside.

“Thanks to the continuous monitoring of the risk of transmission in the classrooms of our country, we have been able to generate data that supports the low risk of eliminating masks in children,” said pediatrician and epidemiologist Quique Bassat, coordinator of the Working Group of Reopening of the Schooling of the AEP.

However, there are experts who believe that adopting this measure could be hasty. “It is premature to make that decision for two reasons: one because vaccination coverage in children aged 5-11 is still only 56 per cent with communities such as the Balearic Islands with only 34 per cent, Madrid with only 46 per cent or Catalonia with only 40 per cent,” said Dr. José Martínez Olmos.

“Removing masks increases the risk of contagion, and I don't see the benefit versus the risk," he added.