Panel proposes mask wearing in nurseries

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — A government panel of experts on novel coronavirus responses proposed Friday that nursery school children be encouraged to wear masks as much as possible, following the rapid spread of the omicron variant of the novel coronavirus among children.

The panel also asked that schools avoid group singing, playing wind instruments and exercises that involve students being in close range with one another.

The government will incorporate the proposals in its basic pandemic response policy as early as this week.

Until now, the government in its guidelines on COVID-19 measures at nursery schools has said that it would not recommend that all children wear masks. The government, however, has decided to change the guidelines temporarily.

In a draft proposal submitted to Friday’s meeting, the government said that it will recommend mask wearing by children aged 2 or older.

After several experts said that children should not be lumped together, as the pace of development differs from child to child, the proposal was altered to say that Japan will promote mask wearing for children who are deemed reasonably able to do this.

For students higher in the education system, the panel suggested that schools temporarily suspend practice games with other schools and training camps.

It called on schools to introduce a combination of staggered school attendance and online classes before they choose to close down the entire school temporarily.

The panel adopted a negative view on temporary schoolwide closures at schools that have not reported COVID-19 cases among their students, stressing the need for careful consideration.

“With the number of COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms rising, especially among the elderly, there is a bigger burden on the medical system targeting coronavirus patients and on the general medical system,” Shigeru Omi, head of the panel, told a press conference.