Fearne only gave a verbal assurance that pupils can go to school without masks. Educators are still waiting for a written confirmation.

Blog post by Marica Micallef

The Malta Daily reported that “Malta is set to scrap the COVID-19 regulation which sees schoolchildren wearing masks in schools after lessons resume after the Easter holidays.” This was announced by Chris Fearne during the inauguration of a garden in Paola which “honours all those who died whilst positive for the virus in Malta.”[1]

“Many parents saw the announcement of mask-free schools as cause for celebration after 18 months of face coverings, which have even prompted ‘Unmask the Kids’ protests.”[2]

But TOM reported that some parents still have mixed feelings about this announcement because of the lack of knowledge around other guidelines which the health authorities do not give, leaving a loophole in the easing of such restrictions.

This is thus leaving associations, unions, and schools entangled in a hotchpotch of interrogatives, with the result that then schools are coming up with their own verdicts. The Maltese Association of Parents of State School Students is such an example since it has appealed to parents to continue being responsible towards the vulnerable in schools and society.

“Under current guidelines, children aged 5-17 who contract COVID but have two doses of the vaccine can exit quarantine if they test negative after day seven. Unvaccinated children must quarantine for 14 days.”[3] So, some parents are afraid that if their child does not wear the mask, the child might get Covid and be asked to quarantine. This is leading some parents to ask for how long would a child who tests positive with a self-test be asked to quarantine and if schools would accept the absence. 

“Another mother, Sarah, asked: “Will the bubble system currently in place continue?”[4]

The UPE executive head, Graham Sansone, said that while he respects the authorities’ decisions, it would still expect educators “to be free to wear a mask if they want to”.

Church schools are contesting the removal of mask-wearing and they are asking the government to postpone this withdrawal until the end of May. “In a statement on Monday, the schools said they currently have to contend with a “record number of sick students and staff” and worry that going mask-free would result in classes “ending up without teachers.””[5]

What about the MUT? What is its position? The MUT has mixed feelings on this issue.

Clearly the local health authorities are giving mixed messages regarding the ditching of masks in schools. The ditching of masks came into force as from Wednesday 13th April, but a mother posted on Facebook that her son was still asked to wear a mask while attending one of Club 3-16 centres. In the post, she included the reply she got from SAĦĦA whereby she was informed that a person working within the contact tracing team told SAĦĦA that since so far the legal notice was not updated, children aged 5 years and over are to continue wearing the face mask and no parent can ask or want to have their children without the mask because this won’t be allowed until the legal notice is issued.

To her post, another mother commented:

The same mother who posted the first post sent a private message to Fearne to receive a clarification. The screenshot below shows the message and the vague reply that Fearne gave:

In this reply, Fearne did not answer all the questions. He did not say when the legal notice will be issued, and he still gave the go ahead to schools to act as they wish. Isn’t he the health minister who gives orders?  Shouldn’t schools be obeying his orders? Doesn’t this show that Fearne is unable to take decisions and stand his ground?

This seems to be another political move which can be twisted and u-turned as they please.  The reply given by SAĦĦA that “entities or clubs have the right to impose masks” proves again how incompetent our health authorities are. They are lifting measures and yet manipulating society into having them enforced. Fearne keeps relaxing the measures within his comfort zone rather than taking a definite decision for the wellbeing of our society, and in this case, the children.

Will children be taking off the masks or not?? When will Minister Fearne issue the legal notice stating that pupils can return to school without the need of wearing masks?

[1] https://maltadaily.mt/masks-for-kids-in-school-to-be-removed-after-easter-says-fearne/

[2] https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/as-schools-prepare-to-unmask-the-kids-some-parents-mixed-feelings.946176

[3] https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/as-schools-prepare-to-unmask-the-kids-some-parents-mixed-feelings.946176

[4] https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/as-schools-prepare-to-unmask-the-kids-some-parents-mixed-feelings.946176

[5] https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/church-schools-want-masks-to-remain-mandatory-in-classrooms-until-end.947647

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