UK students are now required to wear masks in schools as Omicron surges – even though the government admits the evidence for using face coverings in school to reduce the spread of COVID is “not conclusive.”
The UK government announced this week that students in secondary school, which is the equivalent of middle and high school, will have to wear face coverings to stop the spread of the highly-contagious Omicron variant.
But a review of evidence made public by the UK Department for Education shows the government’s own research has failed to prove masks significantly reduce transmission in schools.
The research used to justify the new mask rule compared 123 UK schools that enforced masks to 1,200 schools that didn’t in October 2021 when cases were fueled by the Delta variant.
Schools that enforced masks saw their average absence rate fell by 2.3 percentage points to 3 percent after three weeks, according to the study. The average absences in schools that didn’t use face masks dropped by 1.7 percentage points to 3.6 percent.
“There is a level of statistical uncertainty around the result,” the review said.
The review, which the government acknowledged was not peer-reviewed, noted the figures weren’t statistically significant – and indicated more analysis was needed.
It also acknowledged that the use of masks could harm learning.
The review referenced a survey from March last year where 80 percent of students said wearing a face covering made it difficult to communicate, and another survey from April 2021 where a staggering 94 percent of teachers said face coverings made communication harder.
Oxford University professor of evidence-based medicine Carl Heneghan slammed the study in an interview with TalkRadio, saying it was riddled with problems.
He argued the review “is not fit for purpose” and actually showed evidence for not wearing masks.
“What we’re doing is putting the problem and our anxiety onto children,” Heneghan said.
“This is a retrofit of evidence to suit a policy that’s been rushed out. If I was a minister, I would be sending my team back to school to try and understand how to understand a study.”