Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board have announced the reintroduction of face coverings at secondary schools across the region.
The temporary measure, which is being implemented following a steady rise in cases of coronavirus within younger age groups, will be reviewed on 22 October ahead of half-term.
In Bridgend County Borough, secondary schools have been maintaining the use of face coverings as part of their Covid-19 control measures. This means that face coverings are already in use not just in communal areas such as corridors and halls, but also in class rooms.
Across the Cwm Taf region, rates of transmission are currently highest in the 11-15 year old age groups after cases increased steadily over September as schools reopened.
Face coverings offer extra protection from infection to pupils and staff, and are already used alongside existing control measures such as regular bi-weekly lateral flow testing.
The decision was made by the Regional COVID-19 Incident Management Team, which is chaired by Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board and manages the pandemic response in the CTM area.
Angela Jones, Deputy Director of Public Health at Cwm Taf Morgannwg UHB and chair of the Regional COVID-19 Incident Management Team, said: “This month, we are rolling out the offer of vaccination to everyone aged 12-15 in our Health Board. We are expecting to see a real fall in the case rate as that offer is taken up, but this measure provides additional resilience until then.
“We’d like to stress that this measure is temporary, and will be reviewed at the beginning of half-term.
“In order to reduce infection rates and disruption to education as much as possible, please keep your child home from school and take them for a PCR test if they develop Covid symptoms. You can book a test by calling 119, or visiting the Welsh Government website.”
Vaccines are still being offered to all 12-15 year old with the intention that all appointments will be offered by the end of half term.
In Bridgend County Borough, the vaccination centre is available at Ravens Court in Bridgend town centre (CF31 4AP). You will need to bring along a form of ID such as a passport, drivers licence or a utility bill for proof of address.
Details of other vaccination centres in the region are available on the health board website.
Cllr Charles Smith, Cabinet Member for Education and Regeneration, said: “Having already kept face coverings in use as part of local control measures within schools, we welcome and support this decision and encourage all pupils to make sure they follow this precautionary measure.
“Cases in the secondary school age groups are continuing to rise, and wearing a face covering at school is an effective way of reducing rates of transmission.
“We would also encourage any 12-15 year olds who have been offered their first dose of the vaccine to take it. Having the vaccine limits the effects of coronavirus, and helps to keep you, your family, your friends and the wider community as safe as possible.
“Meanwhile, anyone over the age of 16 who has not yet received their first dose of the vaccine can now walk into any community vaccination centre without an appointment, as can adults who had their first shot more than eight weeks ago but who are overdue for their second vaccine.
“Walk-in appointments are available between 11am and 4.30pm, and I hope that as many people as possible will take advantage of this.”