Face masks in some locations are now mandatory for all persons aged 12 and above in the Republic of Cyprus, while the government has revised rules for elementary school students following protests.
According to a health ministry statement, people aged 12 and above are required to use cloth face coverings in indoor spaces where increasing numbers of people tend to gather.
But the health ministry also took out an earlier measure that would have called for the mandatory use of masks by young pupils in primary schools.
According to a statement on Monday, the use of face masks for pupils aged 6 to 11 shall be optional, while teachers in all grade levels must use face masks.
Local media said teachers unions and organized parents protested a measure that was backed by the education ministry, which would have made the use of masks mandatory for students aged between 6 and 12.
The protesters said it would be difficult for teachers to force youngsters to wear masks properly or at all, citing guidelines issued last week by the World Health Organization
The protesters said it would be difficult for teachers to force youngsters to wear masks properly or at all, citing guidelines issued last week by the World Health Organization.
WHO and UNICEF have advised that the decision to use masks for children aged 6-11 should be based on a number of factors.
While the education ministry insisted up until Monday on the mandatory use of masks among young pupils, protesters have been arguing that young children could face a host of problems, especially first-graders, newcomers, and special education students.
The health ministry weighed in later on Monday, clarifying that the government would follow WHO guidelines, which called on educational authorities to consider a number of factors before making decisions on masks.
Some of the factors, according to WHO guidelines, included whether there was widespread transmission in the area where the child resides and the ability of the child to safely and appropriately use a mask.
Other factors in helping authorities decide appropriate measures included washing and replacing masks in school settings, along with adequate adult supervision and instructions to the child on how to put on, take off and safely wear masks.
Additional factors to consider included potential impact of mask use on learning and psychosocial development.
But the guidelines also noted specific settings and interactions that children might have with other people, such as the elderly and those with other underlying health conditions.