STUDENTS are adding their voices to a campaign to encourage students to wear facemasks to combat the spread of Covid-19 when travelling on the school bus.

As infection rates in North Yorkshire remain above the England average, young people have been talking about why they take precautions and why their fellow students should do the same.

As part of the North Yorkshire County Council’s Respect and Protect campaign, posters will be available to display on school transport to encourage all children, except those who are exempt, to wear a facemask. In addition, transport operators will be encouraged to carry spare facemasks on each vehicle to offer to pupils who forget theirs.

Evie, a Year 9 student at Thirsk School and Sixth Form College, said: “Wearing a mask makes us feel safer and then everyone else feels safer, as they know everyone is doing their best to protect each other.

“At the start it was hard as we weren’t used to it, but now we all know the reason for it. We are keeping everyone safe as well as ourselves and it’s reassuring. We might not get it as bad as anyone else, but if we do get it we could pass it on to our parents or grandparents and they could be very poorly.”

Year 12 student Ben said: “Wearing a mask is safe and it’s common sense, we stay safe and protect each other.”

The students cite a couple of reasons for some young people’s reluctance to wear a face covering.

Year 9 student Harriet said: “People think it makes them look cool and better than anyone else – and some people just follow the crowd.”

Evie added: “We are at a lower risk, so people think it’s not going to affect them. They just think they are untouchable, and it’s silly.”

Cllr Andrew Lee, Executive Member for Public Health, said: “Simple measures like wearing a mask in enclosed spaces can have a big impact in slowing the spread of the virus.

“And the most important thing anyone can do to combat the virus is to have the vaccine.”

Seb, a Year 7 student at Thirsk, said: “I’m getting the vaccine. My mum is quite keen for me to get it, because it’s protecting grandparents and also ourselves.”

Ben adds: “I’ve already had my vaccine. It changes nothing, it just means I feel safer.”

Harriet is getting hers to help to protect her vulnerable grandad, and Evie says: “I’m getting mine, but I’ve told my mum not to tell me when because I don’t like needles.

“I’m going to see family at Christmas and I just think it gives that extra reassurance when your family is mixing.”

North Yorkshire has seen outbreaks linked to school transport during the first half of the current school term.

Louise Wallace, North Yorkshire’s Director of Public Health, said: “Most new cases are in the younger age population, particularly school age children, so we are working hard with colleagues to deal with the impact of this.

“Face coverings should be worn by everyone travelling to school via shared transport, unless they are exempt. This includes buses or trains or any transport where they come into contact with people they do not normally mix with.

“Face coverings help to decrease transmission in enclosed settings, such as vehicles where people are required to sit or stand close together.”