Covid-19: Reusable face masks to be provided for school transport

By Robbie Meredith
BBC News NI Education Correspondent

Published
comments
Comments
Related Topics
Image source, PA Media
Image caption, Face coverings on dedicated school buses are not compulsory, but are strongly recommended

Reusable face masks will be provided to approximately 80,000 pupils in Northern Ireland entitled to free home-to-school transport.

Each pupil will get a pack that includes 10 reusable masks.

Schools will also be provided with home testing kits to be distributed to parents of pupils with symptoms of Covid-19.

Every school in Northern Ireland will receive 10 kits in the first instance as part of the scheme.

Face coverings on dedicated school buses are not compulsory, but are strongly recommended by both the Department of Education (DE) and Translink.

Starter packs

On public transport, however, face coverings are mandatory for everyone aged 13 and over unless they are exempt for medical reasons.

A spokesperson for the Education Authority (EA) said: "DE recently confirmed that it has secured funding for EA to source and distribute starter packs of face masks for children who receive transport assistance.

"We are working closely with Translink staff and schools to begin distribution of these as soon as possible."

The home testing kits are due to be distributed to schools across Northern Ireland from Monday.

A similar scheme is being rolled out in England.

In an email to school principals, the Department of Education said home kits would allow families who could not travel to a testing site to carry out a test for coronavirus.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption, Home testing kits are due to be distributed to schools across Northern Ireland from Monday.

The email said: "In broad terms, when a child or young person displays Covid-19 symptoms, the setting will make contact with the parent or carer to arrange their collection and advise, in the first instance, that a Covid-19 test should be booked.

"This will usually take place at one of the four testing centres in Belfast, Craigavon, Enniskillen or Londonderry, or through mobile testing unit facilities."

It said that in circumstances where there are concerns that the parent or carer may not be able to get the child or young person tested by these means, a home testing kit may be offered to them to administer at home.

"Tests will not be undertaken in education settings," it stated.

The kit includes instructions on how to carry out the test, which involves a swab in the throat and nose.

Image source, Getty Images

Testing kits are then collected and results sent within 72 hours.

A few schools in Northern Ireland have already had to send some pupils home to self-isolate as a fellow pupil or member of staff has tested positive for Covid-19.

In the event of a positive case in a school, the Public Health Agency (PHA) advises principals which other pupils or staff may also have to self-isolate away from school.

More on this story