Face masks: Decision for schools in Wales due on Wednesday

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Media caption,

Vaughan Gething said experts had been asked for new advice on face masks in schools

A decision about whether children will need to wear face coverings to school in Wales will be made on Wednesday, the health minister has said.

Vaughan Gething said he wanted any change to guidance on the mandatory use of face coverings to be made before schools reopen next Tuesday.

And the UK government performed a U-turn and changed its guidance against using face masks in schools in England.

"I've asked the children and schools advisory group of our scientific advisory group to consider the current guidance here in Wales," Mr Gething said at Tuesday's weekly briefing.

"They will look at any additional risks and benefits [to] children, young people and staff from the wearing of face coverings in school settings."

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Vaughan Gething says it is important any changes are announced sooner rather than later

On Tuesday, the Welsh Government's scientific advisory group was asked to review the risks of using masks in schools following an update in guidance from the World Health Organization and the changes in Scotland.

Mr Gething said the advisory group would provide ministers with updated advice later on Tuesday, and he hoped to deliver any decision to change the rules in Wales by the end of Wednesday.

He said the Scottish government had announced changes after schools had "essentially been open for two weeks", and that it was important any changes were announced sooner rather than later.

Mr Gething added it was important any decisions were "proportionate" and "appropriate to their setting, and local population".

What do parents think?

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Julie Richards says her daughter "can't afford to have another six months out of school"

Julie Richards, whose 14-year-old daughter is due to return to Ysgol Garth Olwg in Pontypridd next week, said she supported the idea of wearing masks to school.

"For me, my daughter's going into Year 10 - it's a very important year," Ms Richards said.

"She can't afford to have another six months out of school."

Another mother said that while she agreed with children wearing face masks on school buses, she did not think children should have to wear them in corridors or communal areas.

"It's just quite uncomfortable," said Tracey Elsam, a healthcare worker whose daughter goes to school in the Vale of Glamorgan.

"I'm not worried about [wearing a face mask] causing damage to her health, it's just discomfort."

"Our background rate is low, so we must consider the balance of harm, especially for children and young people with additional needs," he added.

Adults and background transmissions play a "significant role" in school outbreaks, he said, so control measures like social distancing and staggered starts, reducing mixing and staying in smaller groups would need to be observed.

In a statement, the Welsh Government said its advice, which would be "kept under constant review", was that face coverings should be worn "where it may be difficult to stay 2m away from others".