PM Orban rejects proposal to relax mask-wearing rules in low COVID-19 areas

Prime Minister Ludovic Orban has rejected a proposal from Harghita/Hargita County Council President Csaba Borboly to relax mask-wearing rules in institutions categorized as green (operating in an area with a low coronavirus rate). From the government’s perspective, Borboly’s proposal is an incitement to break the rules (via Székelyhon).

“We have received extensive feedback, medical certificates, and reports [indicating] that wearing a mask is less justified for preschoolers and elementary school students. We have also checked other countries in the European Union and found that masks are not compulsory for children under the age of 11,” Borboly said in a video posted on his Facebook page.

Tens of millions of pupils have headed back to class in the EU, as schools have reopened despite the rising number of COVID-19 infections. In most countries, masks are compulsory as a protective measure against the spread of the novel coronavirus, but the age threshold differs from the one applied in Romania.

In France, masks are mandatory for both teachers and students over 11, and in Belgium, for all pupils 12 and over. In Spain, children over 6 must wear masks and maintain a distance of 1.5 meters. Greece follows similar rules: A mask is mandatory for pupils aged 6 and above.

In Denmark, hand sanitization is mandatory but masks are not. Poland took a similar approach – no masks. In Germany, some states made masks mandatory in schools but not while in class. The rule applies only to secondary school pupils and above. In Italy, wearing a face mask is mandatory for pupils aged 6 and above when moving around, but it can be removed when students are at their desks listening to the teacher.

By comparison, masks are compulsory

for children aged 5 and above in Romania

and must be worn while at school,

even during class.

After seeing the mask-wearing practices of other EU countries, Borboly and his team proposed that the government should allow children to take off their masks in areas where the rate of infections is low and face-to-face education is permitted.

But that doesn’t play well in the eyes of the Romanian PM. “Our main goal is to respect the right of pupils to education and to protect the health of children and teachers. The best way to stop the spread of the virus is to wear a mask, along with hand sanitization, physical distancing, and personal hygiene,” Ludovic Orban told news agency Agerpress. “Will they take responsibility if the kids get infected and spread the virus at home? Do they take responsibility for such a huge risk? As far as we are concerned, we cannot agree with such a proposal,” PM Orban said.

Title image: Children at school wearing face masks during class. Image source: DW.com/P. Hille

Author: István Fekete