29 Sept 2022

Masks are still on for driving instructors but pupils can ditch them for lessons

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Driving Instructors are still being advised to keep the facemasks on despite the Covid restrictions being lifted

The Covid restrictions may have been lifted but if you're taking a driving lesson, don't be surprised to see a masked instructor.

While other professions are giving the green light for their respective workforces to tear off their facemasks, driving instructors are still being advised to keep theirs on.

Pupils taking lessons will not be obliged to wear one if they don't want to but when it comes to the all important driving test, the mask will have to go back on.

Jim McCafferty is a Derry driving instructor and he admits that his profession will probably be one of the last to be told they can ditch the masks for good.

He said: “Personally speaking, I wouldn't wouldn't find it resentful (that other professions are telling workers they are allowed to work without masks). I would probably be inclined to keep the mask on anyway.

“It's not a case that I'm itching to take the mask off. To be honest, we do work in a very enclosed environment and I would imagine we would be one of the last professions where we can be told to no longer wear the masks.

“They're still advising us instructors to recommend that we wear masks. In relation to pupils, that would be up to the individual.

“But as far as the instructors are concerned, we still recommended to wear masks for lessons. With regard to driving tests, that hasn't changed at all.

“The examiners will still be wearing masks and they require the candidates to still wear masks as well. There's been no change to what was happening prior to the lifting of restrictions being announced (by the Heath Minister) with regard to what we do.

“They can't insist that my learners wear masks (for lessons). However, as far as myself is concerned, I'll still be wearing a mask because they're asking me to do it.

“My personal view on this is that if a learner is wanting to wear a mask, we're quite entitled to also carry them in the car if they need them.

“And if they do not want to wear a mask, I'll not have a problem with that because I'm not going to inflict upon them a rule that, now by law, doesn't have to be applied.

“But in relation to driving tests, those rules have not changed. Same with the one that says a test can be brought back early (upon the first major error that would fail a pupil).”

With regard to the wearing of masks for driving instructors, a spokesperson for the Department for Infrastructure said: “On February 14, 2022, the Health Minister Robin Swann announced that all remaining COVID-19 legal restrictions in Northern Ireland will be lifted and replaced by guidance from February 15.

“On February 15, the Driver and Vehicle Agency’s (DVA) Registrar for Approved Driving Instructors (APIs) issued an update to all APIs advising that in line with public health advice and guidance, the DVA will continue to require the wearing of a face covering by both the driving examiner and candidates during a driving test.

“Following consultation with Trade Unions, the DVA plan to return to pre-pandemic arrangements when driving test risk assessments are reviewed and agreed in line with public health advice and guidance.

“The regulations are not different for driving instructors. As the DVA does not employ driving instructors it would be a matter for individual driving instructors to determine whether they wish to follow the guidance during lessons with their students.”

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