There has been an “unprecedented reaction” from parents over primary school pupils being made to wear masks in school.
That is according to Áine Lynch of the National Parents Council (NPC) who said the organisation has been contacted by thousands of parents.
Since Wednesday, the Government has asked schools to ensure that students in third class and above wear masks in the classroom and other settings.
The decision came following advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet). Students who do not wear masks can be refused entry to the school if they do not have a certificate from a GP.
Ms Lynch said parents who contacted the NPC were “really confused” as to why the measure has been brought in.
Speaking to RTÉ radio, she said parents were worried about their children, with particular concerns over children’s anxiety levels.
“Their main concern was why was it being brought in,” said Ms Lynch.
“I think that piece has been really difficult for parents.”
Ms Lynch said that at this point, the council hasn’t heard of any child being excluded for not wearing a mask.
She said that from what they have heard from schools is that they are doing their “very best to manage the situation” and that schools are “showing flexibility in how they’re dealing with it”.
The mixed messaging around whether the masks in the classroom was advised or required “brings difficulties”, Ms Lynch added.
“When parents have got concerns about putting a mask on their child, they will cling to any message that makes it sound like that they have control over this situation.”
Ms Lynch said that better information was needed around the decision and parents needed to get an understanding as to why mask wearing is now such an issue.
She highlighted how when the whole population was unvaccinated and hospitals were “bursting at the seams” parents were being told it was “inappropriate for under 13-year-olds to wear face masks”.
She said parents were confused with the messaging, adding: “When [parents] are confused, and also feel that they don't want to put masks on their children for their own concerns, that leads to anger in a lot of cases. And I think that's what we're hearing.”
Ms Lynch said that parents feel February is too far away for a review of the requirement, especially if a child is struggling while wearing a mask.
She said that it should be reviewed at the Christmas break.
On Thursday, a Nphet member said that it will take seven to 10 days before any impact of mask-wearing among younger children is seen on case numbers.
Under the new mask wearing rules, exemptions will be made for children with breathing difficulties or other relevant medical conditions, those unable to remove face coverings without assistance, or those with special needs who may feel uncomfortable wearing face coverings.