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No masks for children in Flemish primary schools

© Virginie Lefour/Belga

Talks held yesterday by the three parties to the education system ended with a decision not to extend the spring holiday at this time, and not to introduce face masks for children in the two final years of primary school.

The purpose of the discussion on extending the so-called crocus vacation in February, starting a week early on 5 February and running until 22 February, was to prepare schools and parents. That would avoid the situation created at the time of the autumn break, when the decision was left until the last moment, creating confusion for all.

However yesterday’s talks between school administrators, unions and education minister Ben Weyts (N-VA) ended with no change being implemented for the time being. The group of experts given the job of working out a management strategy for the epidemic, known as GEMS, has been asked to draw up a Plan B in case things should rapidly deteriorate.

A month and a half [the time remaining until the crocus vacation] is a long period in corona times,” said a spokesperson for Weyts. “We will continue to monitor the situation closely and take the necessary measures at appropriate times.”

The question of face masks for 11- and 12-year-olds in the fifth and sixth year of primary school was raised by the trade union ACOD, after concerns that the new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 – usually referred to as the English variant – is more virulent among children. The schools resume tomorrow.

Primary school children can now go to school every day. If we want to keep it that way, we must also take preventive measures such as wearing face masks from the age of ten,” said Nancy Libert of ACOD. “I wouldn’t wait until the figures eventually rise again. That would leave us again running to catch up.”

The parties will meet again on Thursday, by which time the evolution of the disease situation in the aftermath of the Christmas vacation should be clear, as well as the numbers of children unable to start the new term after being quarantined following travel to a red zone.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times