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Covid-19 Pandemic

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 8 February 2022

Tuesday, 8 February 2022

Questions (720, 721, 722, 726, 753, 754)

John Lahart

Question:

720. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Health if NPHET carried out an up to date evidence-based risk assessment and risk-benefit analysis on the continuing imposition of face mask wearing by children in schools and other settings. [6465/22]

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John Lahart

Question:

721. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Health if NPHET has requested an up-to-date report from HIQA with regard to the continuing imposition of face mask wearing by children in schools and other settings. [6466/22]

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John Lahart

Question:

722. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Health if NPHET has not requested an up-to-date report from HIQA with regard to the continuing imposition of face mask wearing by children in schools and other settings; and the reason it has not done so. [6467/22]

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John Lahart

Question:

726. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Health the basis on which NPHET states that mask use should continue in schools and other settings in view of the removal of the requirement in the UK and many other countries. [6471/22]

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Willie O'Dea

Question:

753. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Health if NPHET carried out an up to date evidence-based risk assessment and risk-benefit analysis on the continuing imposition of face mask wearing by children in schools and other settings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6553/22]

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Willie O'Dea

Question:

754. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Health if NPHET requested an up to date report from HIQA on the continuing imposition of face mask wearing by children in schools and other settings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6554/22]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 720 to 722, inclusive, 726, 753 and 754 together.

The Government, at its meeting on 30 November, agreed that face masks/coverings be recommended for those aged 9 and over on public transport, in retail and other indoor public settings as was required for those aged 13 and over, with exemptions as appropriate. Face masks/coverings are also recommended for children in third class and above in primary school and guidance has issued to schools from the Department of Education on this. This guidance can be found online: www.gov.ie/en/publication/d3c55-department-of-education-guidance-on-the-use-of-face-coverings-in-primary-schools/.

The Government decision is based on a recommendation from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) following its meeting on 25 November. As the Deputy will be aware, this issue has been subject to ongoing review by the NPHET and was considered again at this meeting in light of the sharp rise in the incidence in the 9 to 11 year old age-group in November.

As part of its deliberations, the NPHET considered previous advice from HIQA on the issue, the detailed epidemiological situation in children, international guidance, international practice, the evidence in relation to the use of face coverings in children, and the potential benefits and harms from any recommendations. The NPHET recognised the very significant impacts previous social and economic restrictions have had on families and children to date and also reiterated that a core priority of the NPHET throughout the pandemic has been to protect the continued operation of the education and childcare sector, recognising its importance to the health and development of children. Given the very high incidence in children at that time, the NPHET advised that measures should be taken to interrupt chains of transmission to protect those core priorities including the recommendation in relation to mask wearing, to support families and young children in staying safe over the coming period with a view to reducing risk of disease transmission.

Both the NPHET and Government were clear that this measure was being introduced as a temporary, interim measure and would be reviewed in mid-February 2022.

More recently, the NPHET met on 20 January and provided advice to the government stating that while it was safe for the majority of public health measures to be lifted, the requirements for mask wearing in all settings where currently regulated for under Statutory Instrument and protective measures in schools, early learning and care facilities should be retained until 28 February. This advice was accepted by the Government. The NPHET will meet again on 17 February and will provide further advice to the Government on this issue. This will include advice in relation to mask wearing for children aged 9 to 12.

Question No. 721 answered with Question No. 720.
Question No. 722 answered with Question No. 720.
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