After the fall of the mask in the courtyards, the debate is opened on removing it also within the classrooms. The Spanish Association of Paediatrics proposes to start doing it progressively in schools, starting with first and second grade students at the end of February. Pediatricians plan to monitor how the measure impacts the number of infections before extending it to more courses, according to the document published this Wednesday, but they work with the premise that the risk of eliminating them in children is "low". The Community of Madrid supports this approach and has announced that it will transfer it to the next Public Health Commission. "The mask in the classroom poses a component of difficulty in learning," defended the Madrid Minister of Health, Enrique Ruiz Escudero.
Childhood vaccination progresses unevenly, from 30% of children immunized in the Balearic Islands to 80% in Galicia
The AEP has issued this position after comparing the level of infections among schoolchildren exempt from wearing a mask, boys and girls under the age of six, and the rest. Although the rates have been very high, the highest of all age groups in the sixth wave, the conclusion is that "there are no significant differences."
"There is a pattern of increased transmission that is maintained from infant courses to the last courses of ESO, where it seems to stabilize", they point out in the document, in which they assure that "thanks to the continuous monitoring of the risk of transmission in the classrooms of our country, we have been able to generate data that support the low risk of eliminating masks in children".
For pediatricians, the measure makes sense in a scenario of "normalization" of transmission in Spain, which, in their opinion, opens the door to relax prevention measures as long as "energy is focused on protecting the most vulnerable ". They even propose that schools, taking into account the "lower infectiousness" of children and "the lower risk of getting sick", be a "platform" to test how the removal of the mask impacts society.
This Monday, the Madrid Minister of Health already opened the debate on the elimination of the mask indoors during a visit to the Gregorio Marañón hospital. In statements to the media, the health official in Madrid stated that he should move in that direction. "As the pandemic is evolving and in anticipation of the abrupt decrease that we are having in the number of infections, I think we have to start thinking about new horizons to move forward in eliminating the mask," he assured. His words have been nuanced this Tuesday by the spokesman for the regional government, Enrique Ossorio, who has asked for "prudence."
However, it has been more explicit with removing this garment in the classrooms. “If we are in the phase of contagion control and above all of non-community transmission, that is the next step that we are going to take and we are going to propose it where it must be debated, which is in the public commission,” Escudero has advanced.
In parallel, childhood vaccination advances at an uneven pace. Spain has not met the objective set by the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, at the Conference of Presidents on December 22: that 70% of boys and girls under 12 years of age had their first dose in the week of December 7. February. According to the latest Health data, they are 56% when the first schoolchildren who were vaccinated are being summoned for the second dose after eight weeks have passed.
Epidemiologists agree that the removal of the mask indoors will, in all probability, be the last step in the de-escalation of prevention measures. In Spain it is regulated by law. Although some countries are already making progress in its elimination: from the model freedom day of Denmark and the United Kingdom, to the situation in France, that the end of face masks has already been announced inside the premises where a vaccination passport is required to enter.