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Will Australian schools make P2/N95 masks mandatory for kids?

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With schools returning soon there may be big changes ahead to keep your little ones safe in the classroom.

The holidays are almost over but with case numbers surging and face-to-face learning still given the green light, there's been talk that those cloth masks and single-use masks may become a thing of the past.

In their place? P2 masks or N95 masks for both kids and teachers.

Current mask rules

While no mandates have been made yet over what type of mask a child must wear, schools across the country have been enforcing mask rules alongside the government's requirements since last year.

This means children at or above a certain age, typically 12 years or older, must wear a mask when indoors. However, they do not need to wear a mask outdoors, say for sport or during their lunch break.

"At the moment it is either cloth or disposable types," a head teacher at a private school in Sydney told Finder.

"But hearing the news, it might be N95. We just don't know who will stump up the costs. If it comes to that, teachers will wear N95 and bring their own while the kids must wear disposable ones."

Whatever the case, the head teacher is certain that mask-wearing is here to stay. "Students are to wear masks indoors during class while they don't need to wear them outdoors. All teachers must wear masks indoors except at mealtimes," he says of his school. "I believe these rules will remain unchanged when we return to school."

Why N95 or P2 masks over cloth masks?

N95 and P2 masks are designed to filter at least 94% of particles in the air. They seal around the face and nose to protect your airways.

While cloth masks can provide a certain level of protection, these masks vary in quality. Because of this, they are likely not as effective at blocking particles as an N95 or P2 mask.

So, are individual schools likely to mandate N95 and P2 masks?

Generally, school rules are based on the official government and health advice. At the moment, the only rules are that older children, often 12 years or older, must wear masks indoors.

Schools do not have to enforce what type of mask children use at this point in time. However, private schools can if they wish to.

Mask rules by state for children

StateMask rules for children at school
New South Wales
  • Children 12 years old or more must wear a mask indoors.
  • Under 12s are exempt but are encouraged to wear a mask if practical.
Australian Capital Territory
  • Years 7–12 students must wear a mask indoors.
  • Children 8 years or older must wear a mask indoors.
  • Under 8s or those in Grade 2 or below are exempt.
  • Children 12 years old or more must wear a mask indoors.
  • All children attending high school, regardless of age, must wear masks indoors.
South Australia
  • As of 25 October 2021, masks are not required at education settings across the state.
Western Australia
  • High school children must wear a mask indoors.
  • Primary school-aged children are exempt.
Northern Territory
  • Children 12 years old or more must wear a mask indoors and are encouraged to wear masks outdoors where practical.
  • Children 12 years old or more must wear a mask indoors.
  • Primary school children 12 years or older don't have to wear a mask on school grounds. However, they must wear one when in an indoor public setting, such as a supermarket.

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