Petition launched for ban on singing and music lessons in NI schools to be overturned
A petition has been launched calling for an end to a ban on singing and music lessons in schools in Northern Ireland.
Almost 5,000 people have already signed the petition, which states that "our young musicians need music now more than ever".
It comes as 400 music teachers and performers have also issued a joint statement highlighting their concerns.
Despite the full return of schools yesterday, pupils are prohibited from singing individually or in choirs inside and there is a ban on playing wind and brass instruments indoors.
The Education Authority also said tutors from its music service cannot resume face-to-face teaching yet.
The petition states: "The endless benefits of learning an instrument, singing and making music together in ensemble settings are extremely well documented, including importantly the impact on their emotional and mental health.
"From October to December music lessons were provided in schools with social distancing and other mitigation measures in place - all in keeping with 'music unlocked'.
"We understand this is not a risk-free activity but given the full return of schools and resumption of sports for up to 15 participants, we believe we can safely provide music lessons in accordance with the guidance set out in 'music unlocked' once again."
However, the Public Health Agency said "it is important that we do everything reasonable to reduce the risk of transmission".
It told the BBC: "Singing produces both large droplets of respiratory secretions that generally fall onto surfaces within 2m of the singer, and small droplets that are carried on the air for some distance (aerosols).
"These droplets of respiratory secretions are a major route of transmission of the Covid-19 virus between individuals.
"Playing some woodwind instruments has a similar effect."
The PHA added that the "Kent variant, which is 50-70 per cent more transmissible, is now a prominent variant in Northern Ireland".
"That was not the case when schools were last fully open."