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Face coverings must be worn in classrooms, say UK teachers’ union

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The government must go further on face coverings and make them mandatory in classrooms and not just communal spaces, the teachers' union has said.


The Prime Minister announced new temporary measures in response to the discovery of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in the UK at a press conference.

The measures include for children, teachers and parents to wear face coverings at school in communal settings.

But Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of NASUWT, the Teachers’ Union, said reintroduction of face for pupils in year 7 and above, was helpful but that there was ‘strong evidence’ that more needed to be done.

Masks are mandated in communal areas but not in classrooms under the new government measures. Photograph: iStock

“If schools are to maintain safety during the remainder of this term, the Government will need to accept that its messaging needs to be stronger and that the rules governing isolation of close contacts in particular need to be clear and robust.

“In the case of pupils who are suspected to have Covid-19 symptoms, the Government needs to consider seriously bolstering its advice to require close contacts to self-isolate.”

He added: “In the event that there is a delay in a pupil getting a PCR test, or refusing to do so, there is a real risk that close contacts of the new Omicron variant will continue to attend schools for longer than is appropriate, potentially putting others at risk of contracting the new variant and of further transmission of the virus in schools and in the wider community.”

The measures were announced at a press conference on Saturday. From 4am on Tuesday 30 November face coverings will also be compulsory in shops and other settings such as banks, post offices and hairdressers, as well as on public transport unless individuals are exempt from doing so.

Boris Johnson announced: “The UK’s plan against Covid has been working.”

"But on Wednesday we received news of a new variant - the so-called Omicron Variant - I want to express my deep gratitude to scientists in South Africa who identified this new variant and shared this information widely and immediately."

The PM said that although ‘there are many things’ we don’t know, it appears that Omicron ‘spreads very rapidly, and can be spread between people who are double vaccinated’

“There is also a very extensive mutation which means it diverges quite significantly from previous configurations of the virus, and as result, it might - at least in part - reduce the protection of our vaccines over time.”

So we need to take targeted and proportionate measures now as a precaution while we find out more.”

Check the latest guidance in your workplace here: gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-covid-19

Guidance for schools: coronavirus here:
government/guidance-for-schools-coronavirus-covid-19

 

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