Vic schools mask advice 'not a mandate'

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Victorian school students have been asked to don masks to combat the state's surging COVID-19 wave but won't be punished for ignoring the call.

In a joint letter to parents and carers, public, independent and Catholic schools body heads requested all Victorian students eight and over, as well as all staff, wear masks in classrooms until the end of winter.

The only caveat was for when a student or staff member needs to remove the mask for clear communication.

"Students won't be required or expected to wear masks when outdoors and this expectation won't stop students participation in the full range of school activities, including music, sport and performances," the letter reads.

"We are asking for your support in explaining to your child or children the importance of this simple step that will help keep our schools as safe as possible."

Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas last week "strongly recommended" Victorians wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces, rejecting official advice to reinstate mandates in schools and other settings.

The letter to schools across the state is "entirely" consistent with that recommendation and reinforces the message amid the rising spread of the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants, Victorian Deputy Premier Jacinta Allan says.

"This is about keeping themselves, their work colleagues, their family and loved one's safe during what continues to be a really challenging winter," she told reporters on Tuesday.

Teachers will have no power to punish students who neglect to wear their masks, unlike previously enforceable mask mandates.

"Let's be clear this is not a mandate," Ms Allan said.

But Opposition Leader Matthew Guy, who has long opposed mask requirements in schools, described it as a "mandate on kids by stealth".

"We're all sick of these smoke and mirrors games from the government," he said.

Masks remain mandatory in Victoria in fewer than a dozen situations and settings, including on public transport, inside an aircraft but not airport terminals and for visitors to healthcare facilities.

Victoria recorded a further 25 COVID-related deaths and 12,201 new cases on Tuesday, it's highest daily infection tally since the second Omicron wave peaked in late May.

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