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Coronavirus: Mandatory masks for students causing deep divisions

Click to play video: 'Students in elementary school to wear masks in class in Quebec red zones' Students in elementary school to wear masks in class in Quebec red zones
WATCH: As of March 8, kids in elementary schools will have to wear masks in class. This is as the spread of COVID-19 variants continues to make headway in Montreal. While the new measures come as a relief to some parents and healthcare workers, there's an increasingly large movement of parents who are opposed to the enforcement of masks in schools. Global's Tim Sargeant has more. – Mar 2, 2021

The mandatory mask wearing policy coming into effect Monday for all students in grades 1 through 6 is dividing many people.

An online petition calling for an end to the measure has attracted thousands of signatures.

According to the government’s website  as of March 8, all “students in grades 1 to 6 in primary schools in red zones will be required to wear a procedure mask at all times in the classroom, when they move around and on school transport.”

Read more: Mandatory masks for elementary students in Quebec red zones will ‘lower risk’ of COVID-19 outbreaks

But some parents disagree with the mandate, including Diana Bianco. The mother of three has a six-year-old daughter who suffers from severe asthma.

“This is a child who’s going into school with anxiety because she has to make the difference between breathing with ease or getting reprimanded from her teacher,” Bianco told Global News.

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The author of an online petition denouncing the government’s measure says this should be a matter of parental choice.

“To mask a kid from the beginning of the day to the end of the day makes no sense,” Éric Duhaime told Global News.

However, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital disagrees.

Read more: Montreal public health aims to clamp down on COVID-19 variants

Dr. Christos Karatzios insists the government’s policy mandating masks is a smart move, saying it will help further contain the transmission of the novel coronavirus, especially as new variants are on the rise.

“I think that it’s an excellent idea to try to contain as much aerosols and as many droplets as we can to prevent this from continuing on,” Dr. Karatzios told Global News.

And Quebec’s chief public health physician says the mandate is there for everyone’s protection.

“I think it’s very important measure that we are adding in the context of the variants, which can transmit a lot,” Dr. Horacio Arruda, said during a Tuesday afternoon press conference.

The petition’s author plans to submit the document Monday to the education minister, hoping lawmakers will change their minds.

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