Children will no longer need to wear a mask in school after April 13, health authorities announced on Monday, accelerating a change that was due to come into place after Easter. 

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.

But some are confused about the guidance, especially amid soaring case numbers and unchanged quarantine periods.

“I have mixed feelings about this,” said Sharon, a mother on a chat group.

“I hate masks but I’m scared of quarantine and these extremely high positives.”

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.

And what would self-testing mean for schoolchildren? Would a child testing positive have to quarantine for the full period or would a negative test be enough to return to school, some parents asked.

“Would a class be placed in quarantine if a child tests positive in a self-test?” Would the authorities trust the child to self-quarantine and will schools accept the absence, asked Angele.

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

Despite the easing of other measures over the months, children still have to wear masks all day in school, including in playgrounds and while seated at spaced desks.

The Maltese Association of Parents of State School Students appealed to parents to continue being responsible towards the vulnerable in schools and society.

“When children are sick they should not attend school and if you are positive to COVID, or your child is, let people know so they can monitor their children.”

Parents also want to know if teachers will continue to wear masks.

Graham Sansone, executive head of the Union of Professional Educators, said while respecting the authorities’ decisions, it would still expect educators “to be free to wear a mask if they want to”.

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