Is a mouth mask a necessary evil at school or superfluous and harmful? Seventy doctors break the debate open again in a letter to the Flemish Minister of Education Ben Weyts (N-VA): “A serious threat,” they say. In the meantime, a school in Antwerp that was more flexible with the mouth mask obligation had a police at its door.
All students in secondary education must wear a mouth-nose mask in class. It is only allowed on the playground. The rule was introduced on 1 September, partly because all schools – despite a second wave of corona infections – started in code yellow.
About seventy doctors, mainly general practitioners and some child psychiatrists, denounce this mouth mask obligation in an open letter. In comparison, 450 doctors wrote an open letter at the end of June because the guidelines against the spread of the virus were not being followed well enough.
According to the 70 doctors, the well-being of young children is under threat: ‘In our practices we see an increasing number of children and young people with complaints due to the rules of conduct that have been imposed on them. We diagnose anxiety and sleep problems, behavioral disorders and fear of contamination. We are seeing an increase in domestic violence, isolation and deprivation. Many lack physical and emotional contact; attachment problems and addiction are obvious. ‘
They go so far as to state that the mandatory mouth mask in schools poses a serious threat to the development of children. ‘The aim of education is to create an optimal context so that the maximum development of young people is possible. The school environment must be a safe practice field. The mouth mask obligation, on the other hand, makes the school a threatening and unsafe environment, where emotional connection becomes difficult. ‘ The latter is not further explained in the letter.
Minister Weyts has no plans to change course for the time being. ‘We have done everything we can to get the schools to start in code yellow. To this end, we have been able to conclude an agreement with virologists and the educational field. The mouth mask obligation was part of this. Not a nice decision, but necessary to be able to organize it safely for students and teachers. If you remove one element from the agreement after a week, the whole discussion starts again. ‘
‘Especially with the current, rising rates of infection, virologists risk reacting negatively, which worries parents, students and teachers and threatens to drop out. Now let’s respect the agreement that we have all made. As soon as it can be done safely, I will be the first to abolish the mouth mask obligation again, ‘says Weyts.
Police at school
The duty also causes discussion in schools. The Royal Lyceum in Antwerp was visited by the police last Friday after a complaint about too flexible rules for mouth masks. Director Ann Huybrechts responded Gazet van Antwerp: ‘We hoped to be able to appeal to everyone’s common sense. For example, teachers and pupils were also allowed to regularly remove mouth masks in the classrooms, as long as a safe distance between them was guaranteed. But that has led to that complaint. Who, the police did not say. Only one parent has complained about the scheme to us. There were also many parents who contacted me with the request not to make mouth masks compulsory all day long. That way you get two sides against each other and a majority that just has to follow. ‘ The rules are now again rigorously applied.