The Health Information and Quality Authority has completed a review of the current minimum age for compulsory mask-wearing and has sent the outcome to NPHET for consideration at its next meeting.

The current minimum age is 13. The news comes as the return to school got under way in earnest today.

The country's largest teacher union has warned that there are difficulties associated with primary school children managing masks, but The Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) said that teachers would abide by any expert public health advice.

The INTO is not advocating for the compulsory wearing of face masks in schools to be extended to children aged under 13.

However, INTO General Secretary John Boyle said his members will follow whatever HIQA recommends on the issue.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, Mr Boyle said the INTO is happy the issue is being reviewed, adding, "we have a lot of concern that the case numbers have been really, really high in the last month".

He said there have been reports of some outbreaks in schools last week and wants to ensure the public health supports that were in place last year are augmented this year.


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Mr Boyle said there are a lot of issues around mask-wearing in primary schools, but said "if public health then makes recommendations, we'll be happy to co-operate with the recommendations as we always have done, so long as it's based on up-to-date public health advice".

He also said he is concerned that a planned pilot scheme for antigen testing has not yet begun in primary, secondary or special schools.

Mr Boyle said this detailed recommendation was made by the Department of Education in April, but the testing has only been carried out in the childcare sector and at Third Level.

He said the INTO raised this delay with the Department of Education and were told in June that there were difficulties with the licensing of the particular test they intended to use.

Mr Boyle also reiterated the INTO's call that pregnant teachers under 14 weeks should be facilitated to work from home and assist children who are sick and home from school, until they are vaccinated.

He said they want these teachers to have the same protection as their colleagues working in schools.