The Indian variant has been used to justify the Government U-turning on ending mask-wearing in the classroom, with schools in areas where the strain is more dominant having been told by the local authorities to keep to the mask mandate in place. The Telegraph has the story.
Whitehall officials have agreed with directors of public health at Blackburn and Darwen, Bolton, Lancashire and Sefton councils that masks should continue to be worn in lessons and corridors.
It comes amid rising concern about a surge in the Indian variant of Covid, which early data suggests could be more transmissible than other variants.
The Prime Minister announced at the start of last week that from May 17th, secondary pupils would no longer be required to wear face masks during the school day.
But the Telegraph understands that by Friday evening, deals had been struck with several local councils to extend the use of masks in the classroom.
A Government spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister has set out the measures needed to tackle the new variant of concern. In line with our plans published earlier this week to address variants of concern in education, we have also agreed with Directors of Public Health that face coverings will remain in place in Blackburn with Darwen, Bolton, Lancashire and Sefton. We are continuing to work closely with local authorities in these areas.”
The Department for Education (DfE) issued guidance last week which said schools should not seek to implement “restrictive measures” without the “explicit approval” of ministers.
Officials insisted that the national guidance remains that face masks are no longer needed for children while they are at school.
But they added that directors of public health at a handful of local councils and borough councils have been given explicit permission by the Government to advise schools that face masks must be worn at all times when indoors if it is not possible to socially distance.
Other schools have decided to continue instructing children to wear face masks in the classroom without approval from local directors of public health, despite the DfE sayings schools shouldn’t be doing so.