The Minister confirmed on 7th August 2020 that she had been working with the public health authorities to ensure that the public health advice underpinning the safe reopening of schools is fully up to date. The HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre has confirmed that all recommendations published in the public health advice by the Minister at the beginning of July including physical distancing guidelines as set out in the recently published roadmap still apply in all schools, with the exception of the recommendations on face coverings which has been updated to reflect the latest research and expertise. It is now recommended that teachers and secondary school students wear face coverings, similar to those worn in shops or on public transport, when a physical distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained
Cloth face coverings act as a barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from travelling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the face covering coughs, sneezes, talks or raises their voice. Cloth face coverings are therefore intended to prevent transmission of the virus from the wearer (who may not know that they are infected) to those with whom they come into close contact.
It is therefore a requirement that teachers, staff and students attending post primary schools wear a face covering when a physical distance of 2m from other staff or students cannot be maintained.
In certain situations the use of clear visors should be considered, for example staff interacting with students with hearing difficulties or learning difficulties. All students on the post primary transport scheme should be asked to wear face coverings unless there is a good reason not to do so.
Cloth face coverings should not be worn by any of the following groups:
Any person with difficulty breathing
Any person who is unconscious or incapacitated
Any person who is unable to remove the face-covering without assistance
Any person who has special needs and who may feel upset or very uncomfortable wearing the face covering, for example persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental health conditions, sensory concerns or tactile sensitivity.
All staff and students wearing face coverings should be reminded to not touch the face covering and to wash or sanitise their hands (using hand sanitiser) before putting on and after taking off the face covering. COVID-19 Response Plan for the safe and sustainable reopening of post primary schools Information should be provided on the proper use, removal, and washing of cloth face coverings https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/aac74c-guidance-on-safe-use-of-face-coverings/ All teachers and staff should be aware that they should wash or sanitize hands (using a hand sanitizer) before and after helping a student put on or adjust a face covering.
Face coverings should be stored in a space designated for each student that is separate from others when not being worn (e.g., in individually labelled containers or bags) . Cloth face coverings should be washed after every day of use and/or before being used again, or if visibly soiled.
Face coverings should not be worn if they are wet. A wet cloth face covering may make it difficult to breathe..
Schools should consider having additional disposable face coverings available for students, teachers, and staff in case a back-up face covering is needed during the day.
Whilst staff may wish to utilize their own face covering on a day-to-day basis, schools should have available a stock of additional disposable or multi-use face coverings, or if appropriate face visors, available for staff in case a back-up face covering is needed throughout the day or where required on an ongoing basis.
On the use of face masks by staff, schools should consider the specific circumstances where the use of medical face masks, to EU Standard EN 14683, may be more appropriate for staff (for example where staff by necessity need to be in close and continued proximity with students with intimate care needs such as SNAs or School Bus Escorts).
It is school policy that proper a facemask be worn - scarfs or bandanas are not considered appropriate
Wearing a face covering or mask does not negate the need to stay at home if symptomatic.