North Yorkshire pupils urged to wear face mask on school bus

Thirsk School and Sixth Form College pupils Evie and Harriet.

A campaign to encourage students to wear facemasks to combat the spread of Covid-19 when travelling on the school bus has been launched in North Yorkshire.

It comes as infection rates in the county remain above the England average.

As part of the county council’s Respect and Protect campaign, posters will be available to display on school transport to encourage all children, except those who are exempt, to wear a facemask.

In addition, transport operators will be encouraged to carry spare facemasks on each vehicle to offer to pupils who forget theirs.

Evie, a Year 9 student at Thirsk School and Sixth Form College, is supporting the campaign.

She said: “Wearing a mask makes us feel safer and then everyone else feels safer, as they know everyone is doing their best to protect each other.

“At the start it was hard as we weren’t used to it, but now we all know the reason for it. We are keeping everyone safe as well as ourselves and it’s reassuring.

“We might not get it as bad as anyone else, but if we do get it we could pass it on to our parents or grandparents and they could be very poorly.”

Year 12 student Ben added: “Wearing a mask is safe and it’s common sense, we stay safe and protect each other.”

The students cite a couple of reasons for some young people’s reluctance to wear a face covering.

Year 9 student Harriet said: “People think it makes them look cool and better than anyone else – and some people just follow the crowd.”

Evie adds: “We are at a lower risk, so people think it’s not going to affect them. They just think they are untouchable, and it’s silly.”

The students believe the poster campaign will have an impact.

Evie and Harriet agree: “Everyone is nosey. Posters will work if the message is given to people enough. They will soon realise that they are the problem and make changes for the better.”

Cllr Andrew Lee, executive member for public health, said: “Simple measures like wearing a mask in enclosed spaces can have a big impact in slowing the spread of the virus, and the most important thing anyone can do to combat the virus is to have the vaccine.”

Harriet is getting her vaccine to help to protect her vulnerable grandad, and Evie says: “I’m getting mine, but I’ve told my mum not to tell me when because I don’t like needles.

“I’m going to see family at Christmas and I just think it gives that extra reassurance when your family is mixing.”

North Yorkshire has seen outbreaks linked to school transport during the first half of the current school term.

Louise Wallace, North Yorkshire’s director of public health, said: “Most new cases are in the younger age population, particularly school age children, so we are working hard with colleagues to deal with the impact of this.

“Face coverings should be worn by everyone travelling to school via shared transport, unless they are exempt.

“This includes buses or trains or any transport where they come into contact with people they do not normally mix with.

“Face coverings help to decrease transmission in enclosed settings, such as vehicles where people are required to sit or stand close together.”