Teacher unions are welcoming a State review into whether young children should wear masks in school.
The National Public Health Emergency Team has asked the HIQA to look at the latest evidence on the minimum age for wearing face coverings.
It comes as primary school children around the country return to school.
On Breakfast Briefing this morning, the INTO General Secretary John Boyle said it is past time the review was carried out.
“We are certainly behind a further review,” he said. “The last time the review was done was in August of 2020 and at that time the people of Ireland were not even being encouraged to wear masks during the pandemic.
“So, there was a change at that particular time and whatever the public health advice review will say we are happy to go along with it."
“There are countries in the world where the older children are wearing masks. Even in Ireland, a child who is 12 in a post-primary school wears a mask while a child who is 12 who is in primary or special school doesn’t.”
He said teachers are looking forward to the new school year but warned that there is still a sense of trepidations, particularly for their colleagues in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy who he said “the Government has let down so badly and forced them in without a vaccine.”
“It is an absolute disgrace that women in their first 14 weeks of pregnancy couldn’t have been left working remotely for a few more weeks until they got the same protection and equality of the rest of the staff,” he said.
He said around 1,600 teachers and Special Needs Assistants are being asked to return to school without vaccination because they are in the early weeks of pregnancy.
The Education Minister Norma Foley has said pregnant teachers who are anxious about returning to school can avail of or pregnancy-related sick leave; however, Mr Boyle said the INTO “does not concur with that at all.”
He noted that teachers have 91 days of sick leave on full pay over a four-year period.
“They are watching all the time for not hitting that tip-over point of the 91 days so if you remained on sick leave for eight or nine weeks now because you didn’t have full vaccine protection and your doctor felt it wasn’t safe for you to return to school, you wouldn’t be long hitting that 91 days and when you hit 91 days you go on to half-pay,” he said.
“So, there is certainly a big jeopardy and you don’t need that type of anxiety in early pregnancy and I suppose really if Government had thought about this it would have been another measure they certainly could have put in place for a number of weeks and it would have been treating their workforce with compassion and care.”
Earlier this month, Trinity Professor Luke O'Neill told Newstalk that masks should be mandatory for primary schools.