An open letter against the wearing of face masks in Belgian primary schools has collected nearly 20,000 signatures of support.
“Ten, eleven and twelve-year-olds are asked to show solidarity in order to protect the freedoms of adults,” the letter reads, “but that is not the responsibility of children and young people.”
Nina Mouton and Hanne Luyten and Kaat Nelles, who are behind the letter, say that children and young people have “done enough” when it comes to making sacrifices that contribute to containing the coronavirus.
“This is already the third school year that is different for them,” they write. “If the coronavirus measures are a scale in which one measure can be replaced by another, we ask the competent ministers to sit down and reconsider the current interpretation of this scale.”
Covid-19 figures have been on the rise in Belgium.
“Infection rates and statistics are undeniably very important, but so are the emotional and mental well-being of children,” the letter writers say. “They all weigh in on a scale that needs to be rebalanced.”
Flemish Education Minister Ben Weyts (N-VA) told Nieuwsblad that measures like improving ventilation in schools or using CO2 meters, which the parents suggest as alternatives, have always been considered, but he’s hesitant to remove the rules on mandatory masking.
“The minister has been reluctant to take the rule of compulsory mouth masks in the classroom, but we are doing it anyway after the autumn holidays until the figures allow it [to be removed] and the circulation among 10 to 12-year-olds decreases,” a spokesperson for his office said.
“There will be an interim evaluation and we hope that children will be rid of the masks as soon as possible.”
The letter against mandatory masks for primary school children had 19,910 signatures of support at the time of publication.