Local public health chiefs have been given more powers to request teenage pupils wear face masks in schools, in a sign that the Government is gearing up its preparations for a fresh surge of Covid-19 over winter.
Changes to Whitehall’s contingency plans mean that regional directors of public health no longer need permission from central government to request face coverings in schools, allowing them to act more nimbly in the event of a major outbreak in their local community.
Public health officials will be able to request that secondary school pupils and staff cover up in communal areas such as canteens and assembly halls, without approval from Whitehall.
In the event of a serious surge of local cases where officials have to impose an “enhanced response area”, pupils could also be asked to wear face masks in classrooms.
The changes are in response to concerns that, despite the booster and over-12 vaccination roll-outs, UK cases are on the rise again and could be further fuelled by high transmission on the continent.
Boris Johnson is not yet ready to impose Plan B measures – which would involve mandatory face masks for all in indoor public places and an instruction to work from home – but earlier this week he could not rule out fresh restrictions this winter including a lockdown over Christmas.
The Prime Minister warned the “storm clouds” of a fourth wave of Covid-19 over Europe threatened to affect the UK’s response to the pandemic, and urged people to come forward for their booster jab.
Read more: Face masks in schools more likely as Government plans for winter surge – no, plans to follow the script imposed on the gutless gofers by the Global Cult that Johnson and co dare not disobey