Latest medical evidence showing rising risk of social transmission of Covid-19 makes urgent case for schools to make mandatory wearing face coverings on school buses

Ministers for Education and Infrastructure must intervene to issue guidance for all schools to enforce infection control measures on public transport

Davy Thompson, Deputy Regional Secretary

Huge variations in approach taken by schools leaves drivers concerned for their own safety as well as that for families

Davy Thompson, Unite deputy Regional Secretary with responsibility for his union’s membership in Translink called for Education Minister Peter Weir and Infrastructure Minister Nicola Mallon to act collectively to protect families and workers from the risk of Covid-19 transmission on buses and trains.

“Yesterday’s announcement of augmented measures to protect from a second peak of Covid-19 was based on medical research which highlighted the growing rate of household or social transmission. This same evidence suggests the urgent need for the Ministers for Education and Infrastructure to intervene to make the wearing of face coverings mandatory by school children on buses and trains.

“At present, children from different schools are intermingling freely on school buses. In some cases, schools are strictly enforcing the  wearing of face coverings by pupils on school transport but in many others there appears to be no enforcement whatsoever of such rules.

“School bus drivers are fearful that even if they don’t show any symptoms themselves, children may act as vectors for this disease. That poses a particular threat to drivers who come in close contact and are often in older age brackets with vulnerabilities but also to parents and grandparents back home.

“While fare-paying passengers generally wear face coverings on buses and trains, the same can’t be said of school children who use public transport services which are not designated ‘school bus’ only. This is a particular problem with older, secondary school age children.

“Unite is therefore calling on the Stormont Executive to ensure that the Education Authority issue guidance to all schools to adopt a uniform approach to managing this pandemic. In particular, it must be made mandatory that all secondary-school children wear face coverings while on buses and trains unless they have a medical-related exemption”, Mr Thompson said.

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