Omicron: Pupils Told To Wear Face Masks At School Over Variant Spread Fears

Simon Catling

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Omicron: Pupils Told To Wear Face Masks At School Over Variant Spread FearsAlamy

Ministers have told schools in England that pupils should return to wearing masks when in class, with fears that the new term will bring another spike in Omicron cases when it begins this week. 

Secondary school children in England will be expected to return to mask-wearing during lessons, with the Department for Education saying the advice was ‘short-term only to support pupils and teachers as they return to schools this term’. The guidance will remain in place until January 26 when it will be reviewed.

It comes amid worries that England in particular could be the most affected by any surge in cases due to the comparatively relaxed restrictions it had over Christmas and New Year’s Eve in comparison to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. The latter two had ordered the closure of clubs, while all three have implemented a range of social distancing measures and capacity limits for gatherings indoors.

School students wearing face masks (PA Images)PA Images

England is also under scrutiny due to a shortage in Covid testing equipment, which has coincided in a record number of cases – 162, 572 were reported yesterday, January 1. In addition, all state schools have been asked by the government to carry out on-site testing of pupils before lessons begin this week, The Guardian reports.

With the government very much seeking to avoid having to close schools again, education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has also announced that 7,000 more air cleaning units would be provided to schools and colleges to improve ventilation in classrooms. Many Ofsted school inspections are also set to be delayed in the first weeks of the new term. ‘The prime minister and I have been clear that education is our number one priority,’ Zahawi said. ‘These measures will bolster our support for schools as we do everything in our power to minimise disruption.’

Keir Starmer. (Alamy)Alamy

Labour leader Keir Starmer, however, criticised the government for not doing more to make sure there were plenty of testing kits available in preparation for the commencement of the school term.

‘Schools return next week, and in the past this has seen Covid spreading among children, who then take it home to their families,’ he said in an interview with the Observer.

‘As cases begin to rise in the more vulnerable age groups, so does concern for our elderly population. The government’s failure to prepare means it must now prioritise those who most urgently require tests, until it can get supply back to levels of demand,’ he added.

If you’ve been affected by coronavirus and want up to date advice, visit the Gov.uk help page here. If you need medical help call NHS 111 or visit online

Topics: Health, Face Masks, Now, Omicron, Schools, UK

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The Guardian
  1. The Guardian

    Schools in England told: wear masks in class as fears mount of Omicron surge

Simon Catling
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