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Mask mandate for schools “makes no sense”

Expert in international health points to holes in DGS policy

Tiago Correia, a regular television commentator and health specialist, has said the DGS stance on mask wearing in schools “makes no sense”.

DGS director Graça Freitas has been criticised for her insistence on making heavy weather of SARS-CoV-2 when the virulence of the virus itself has vastly reduced.

With Omicron, SARS-CoV-2 mutated to the point of manageability – which in the most part is being allowed to continue.

But Graça Freitas is adamant that schoolchildren have to keep their masks on during the (hot) summer term.

And many school directors, parents and children are understandably at their wits ends.

Now Tiago Correia has admitted he too can see no sense in the policy – for two main reasons:

  1. People were expecting the rules to drop (as the pandemic is no longer causing major problems; the elderly and vulnerable are all double-vaxxed and boosted; transmission is no longer something to be controlled, as with Omicron “this is impossible”, therefore measures introduced to try and control it also need to be dropped).
  2. There are too many ‘contradictions’ at play (for example, anyone in a bar or discotheque is free to enjoy themselves without wearing a mask, but children in a classroom, trying to recover their education, are told they need to continue wearing them as the risks of not doing so are ‘too great’.

When one considers the two environments – one in which alcohol flows freely, the other where it does not – it is quite easy to see the incongruencies.

“The issue of contradictions for me is the most serious”, Correia has told SIC, saying that in his opinion insisting on mask wearing in a school context not only doesn’t “make sense, it is inappropriate with regard to the epidemiological situation”.

Indeed, his opinion in February was that the issue of mask-wearing in schools needed to be revised.

We know well that masks have an impact on children on various levels. From the learning point of view the youngest are affected – even in learning how to speak; older children are affected in the way their relate socially with others”, he said.

At the outset of the pandemic, these restrictions were brought in as no one quite knew how to cope with the situation; now, from Correia’s viewpoint they have become outdated.

Previously the damages caused by wearing masks in schools were less than the benefits ; now I think the damages are much greater than the benefits“, he insisted.

As to the DGS rigidity over deaths (they have to come down to 20 in a million inhabitants over a 14-day average before the country’s final restrictions can fall), Tiago Correia also pointed out ‘incongruences’: “The people who die with Covid these days most probably would die with any other illness“, he said. There is no ‘excess death from Covid’ anymore, he added, showing graphs to show this – thus making a speciality of ‘deaths with Covid’ is “inadequate” bearing in mind vulnerable, elderly people tend to die with respiratory infections of one kind or other, and will continue to do so.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com