What is the current requirement for students – primary and secondary
Health advice continues to be that masks provide an important first line of defence in minimising transmission, particularly as the Omicron variant is recognised to be incredibly transmissible. We know how important masks were towards the end of last year when there was a positive case in a school and last year the wearing of masks by contacts significantly impacted the risk assessment outcome for those individuals.
The protocols for wearing masks have not changed since the end of last term. In other words, masks continue to be required in indoor settings for staff and secondary students, as well as being strongly encouraged for primary students. Whilst there is an exemption from mask wearing in schools in the Public Health Order, it has been and is expected to continue to be in Term 1 2022 a Cabinet decision for masks to be required in indoor settings for staff and secondary students, as well as being strongly encouraged for primary students.
This seeming contradiction between the PHO exemption and the Cabinet decision can be confusing. Essentially the 2 key messages are:
- NSW Cabinet decision means that masks continue to be required in indoor settings for staff and secondary students, as well as being strongly encouraged for primary students.
- the exemption in the PHO means that schools are not required to police mask wearing in any official capacity but schools would need to consider their own processes for monitoring mask wearing as appropriate in each school context given the Cabinet decision for now at least that masks have to be worn indoors by staff and secondary students.
What about staff, or visitors to site?
The same applies for all staff, not just teaching staff and for visitors to the school, including parents and carers – anyone over the age of 12 on the school site who is indoors is required to wear a mask.
What types of masks should schools use?
There are no requirements about what types of masks are used by students and staff. NSW Health advice on masks is available online.
Are masks required if there is only one person in an office?
Under the PHO, individuals are permitted to remove their mask if there is no other person is in the area.
Are students required to wear masks on buses?
The PHO requires that all people over the age of 12 wear a mask at a public transport waiting area and in a public transport vehicle or vessel (such as a bus or train).
In regards to private buses, the mask-wearing requirements in the school (mask-wearing in an indoor setting) also apply to the bus.