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Children are being pressured into wearing face masks by their school

Children are being pressured into wearing face masks in Victorian schools despite there being no state government mandate, according to parents. 

The government has adopted a non-mandatory mask policy, leaving Victorians free to choose whether or not they don face coverings – although use indoors is strongly advised.

But even against parents’ wishes, teachers are reportedly ordering students to put on masks and handing them out in class, leaving many children confused. 

One father said his son, who is in grade four at a primary school, was reduced to tears after he was told to wear a mask. 

‘I’d told my son he didn’t have to wear one but he said he said he had to and that at school there’s no choice and that kids have to do what they are told,’ the parent told the . 

‘The state government hasn’t mandated masks in schools but schools are mandating it.’

Parents say children are being pressured to wear masks at school despite there being no mandate. Pictured: Students return to school after restrictions ease in Melbourne in July 2021 

Another parent, whose child attends a school in the city’s inner-west, said kids were given masks by a teacher and put them on thinking they had no choice. 

Taylor’s Lakes Primary School has reportedly told parents kids eight and older ‘should be wearing masks at school’ while another primary school in Melbourne’s southeast hands them to children as they walk into the classroom. 

Some private and independent schools have taken an even tougher approach by introducing their own mask requirements on campus. 

At Gippsland Grammar, students in year four and above as well as staff must wear masks indoor, while the same rule applies at Overnewton College for those in year five or older. 

In a letter to parents, Overnewton college said: ‘as an independent school, it is within our power to mandate this policy for our community and this is the decision that we have made’. 

The confusion comes as the state’s acting chief health officer Ben Cowie published advice this week urging masks be mandated in schools and Victorians work from home as the state grapples with its winter Covid wave. 

Victoria currently does not have a mask mandate in place, although use indoors is strongly advised

However, Premier Daniel Andrews on Wednesday night said the current Covid restrictions are unlikely to be tightened anytime soon.

‘There’s no mandate. It’s not compulsory. There’s no sanction if you didn’t (wear a mask), it’s strongly recommended. Nothing more, nothing less. That’s the fact of it,’ he said.

‘If you’re asking me if it’s my view that these rules are going to change, slot terbaru no they’ve only just been made.

‘I think it’s fair to say … you’re not going to see mask mandates anywhere in the country.

‘But you will see consistent advice from the national government and state and territory governments that it’s highly recommended that people wear masks inside, people act on their symptoms, get tested and isolate.’

As case numbers nationwide continue to rise due to more infectious strains of Covid, calls have been growing for greater mask use in public areas.

The situation has sparked debate among health professionals and state and federal leaders as they negotiate how Australia will learn to live with the virus. 

Australian Medical Association president Dr Omar Khorshid, a Perth-based hip and knee surgeon, said rules for mask wearing will ‘quite likely’ need to be brought in and enforced in order to control the latest virus outbreak.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Wednesday said the state’s Covid rules were unlikely to be tightened anytime soon 

‘Everything we’ve heard from the federal government and various state health ministers and premiers is that they’re not about to introduce mandates,’ he told The Guardian.

‘But governments are ultimately going to be held to account by the public for their failure to navigate this whole process. At some point, I think it’s quite likely we will have a period of mask mandates in certain states.’

However, Anthony Albanese said mental health has been one of the reasons for why broad mask mandates haven’t been reintroduced.

‘There are two things at play. One is mental health considerations … the imposition of controls on people’s behaviours has an impact of people’s health, that’s just a reality,’ he told The Project on Wednesday.

‘Particularly young people, we’re seeing an increasing problematic increase in incidents of severe consequence when it comes to young people’s health.’

 Australian Medical Association president Dr Omar Khorshid (pictured) said mask mandates are ‘quite likely’ to return’

The Prime Minister said the large take up of Covid vaccinations, as well as anti-viral treatments, were the second factor in the health advice.

‘The big difference between now and say a year or 18 months ago, is the level of vaccinations which are out there, that is making an enormous difference,’ he said.

‘Whilst the numbers of people who are getting infected by Covid are expected to peak in coming weeks and then go down towards September … the consequences are less, because if you are vaccinated, you have a level of protection which is there.’

While mask mandates have been put in place in some high-risk settings, such as public transport in certain jurisdictions, Mr Albanese said in many cases people weren’t wearing masks in those locations.

It comes as chief medical officer Paul Kelly said businesses should look at working-from-home plans for employees in a bid to stem the rise in infections.

The prime minister said mental health considerations have been a key factor in decisions by health officials to not institute broad mask mandates

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Albanese said many businesses had already adjusted to working-from-home models as a result of the pandemic, although it may not always be the case for some sectors.

‘For many businesses, it works for both the business and the employee to have more people working from home, of course, we need to recognise there’s a consequence as well,’ he said.

The latest vaccination figures revealed almost 100,000 people received a fourth Covid vaccine dose in the past day.

Almost one-third of the eligible population over age 30 have received a fourth dose, with 63.7 per cent of Australians over 65 having had their second booster.

There were more than 53,000 new virus cases reported on Wednesday, along with 90 deaths.

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