Pupils must wear masks in classrooms: Health Department clarifies after error

However, in a statement, the department said pupils will not be required to wear masks outdoors in playgrounds and sports fields.

A survey by NIDS-CRAM showed that 700,000 pupils dropped out during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the Department of Basic Education said only 46,000 pupils did not return to school. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - The Department of Health on Thursday clarified that the wearing of face masks by pupils was mandatory in classrooms and general indoor gatherings as per regulations 16A of the newly gazzetted regulations set to replace the national state of disaster.

However, in a statement, the department said pupils would not be required to wear masks outdoors in playgrounds and sports fields.

“Face masks are an effective non-pharmaceutical intervention against the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and it is more relevant now as the number of COVID-19 positive cases is rising once again,” the statement read.

Earlier, the department announced after receiving public comments around mask-wearing at basic education institutions, it would no longer be mandatory for pupils to wear masks at schools.

It's since come out to say the claim was made in error in a statement clarifying the matter.

Government has announced a three-month extension to the health regulations meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 and the public consultation period.

The newly gazetted regulations come into effect from Thursday, with a focus on the wearing of masks, gatherings and travel.

The department’s Nicholas Crisp said enforcing mask-wearing for children had always been difficult.

“We regard them as a place of learning where we want the children to be as free and able to move as freely as possible. If people feel safer to wear a mask, that would be encouraged but if they are in a class and are social distancing, they will not be required to wear a mask on school premises.”