Christopher Luxon posts video of maskless meet-and-greets as Government urges schools to mask-up

Primary schools will be expected to move from encouraging mask wearing to enforcing it when Term 3 begins on Monday.

It will apply to all children from year four up, and is a change epidemiologists have been appealing for the Government to implement.

But one person who was not wearing a mask when he visited Te Puke industries last week was National leader Christopher Luxon.

It comes as the Ministry of Health on Friday reported 26 deaths and 8728 community cases. Over the past seven days 186 deaths have been recorded, meaning more deaths were recorded over this past week than any other week during the pandemic.

There might not be a mask mandate, but that hasn't stopped principal Wendy Kofoed opting to have one for her students and teachers.

"They're strong mask wearers and their parents are very supportive of us encouraging mask-use indoors," she said.

"100 percent yes, I would support a mandate but strongly, strongly recommmend is also very, very handy for all of our community."

Kofoed's mask measures are now backed up by the Government. As well as providing 10 million children's masks, the Ministry of Education is now urging schools to adopt a mask policy for four weeks when Term 3 starts on Monday.

"This isn't a U-turn, we've always said that we encourage mask use in schools under orange," said Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti.

Tinetti has written to schools outlining the Government's strong recommendation to "enforce a mask-wearing policy as much as practicable". While it's shy of a legally enforceable mandate, this is about as strong as a recommendation comes.

"The language is strong but we need it to be strong at this point in time," she said.

Paediatrician Dr Jin Russell said it's "not necessarily forever".

"This is a particularly challenging winter that we're facing so I'd encourage schools to take this seriously and to do their bit so that we can keep students in school."

It's not just schools - to get through winter, public health officials are begging all Kiwis to wear them indoors.

"Always wear a mask in an indoor environment outside of your home," Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said. 

They're begging Kiwis, like National leader Christopher Luxon.

A video shared by Luxon shows him with his whole bare face out in Te Puke, meeting, greeting and learning how wood get made.

The only mask in the whole video was on his chin. It was posted to his social media accounts on Thursday - the same day 32 people died of COVID-19.

Luxon posted the video after Jacinda Ardern's photo furore on Tuesday, when the Prime Minister - a prime influencer - shared with her 1.7 million followers a picture of more than 100 maskless people crowded onto stairs in the Beehive.

Newshub showed Luxon's video to Dr Joel Rindelaub, an aerosol chemist at the University of Auckland.

"I would definitely recommend putting on some N95s in that situation," said Dr Rindelaub.

Luxon said in a statement on Friday that National MPs are guided by their hosts on mask use and masks were not required in the meetings.

"It's a great opportunity for a leader to lead by example in these situations and be showing off that proper mask use," said Dr Rindelaub.

Politicians have platforms and influence, and National's been using the overwhelmed healthcare system to score political points.

The least politicians of all stripes could do is help healthcare workers out by encouraging best mask practise - even if they're not technically required to.