Schoolkids from Year 7 must wear face masks in communal areas amid Omicron fears

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Secondary school and college pupils must wear face masks in communal areas between lessons, amid fears of the Omicron variant.

Boris Johnson announced on Saturday that face coverings would be made mandatory on public transport and in shops again to slow the spread of the Omicron Covid-19 mutation.

The Department for Education confirmed on Sunday afternoon that the Prime Minister's message will lead to immediate action for kids in Year 7 and above.

A day after Britain said it had detected two cases of the variant, its health agency recorded a third – in a person who was linked to travel to Southern Africa but had since left the country after spending time in the capital London.

In addition to the 'tightening' of face covering usage, ministers want to ramp up the offer of booster jabs, saying even if vaccines prove to be less effective against Omicron, they should offer better protection against it and reduce the number of hospitalisations and deaths.

"The other thing that still remains hugely important, but I think it's fair to say now more important than it was before, is our vaccination programme," Javid told Sky News.

An email update from the Department for Education to education and childcare providers said: "Face coverings should be worn in communal areas in all settings by staff, visitors and pupils or students in Year 7 and above, unless they are exempt.

"Pupils or students (in Year 7 or above) should continue to wear face coverings on public and dedicated school transport, unless they are exempt."

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The measures will be reviewed in three weeks.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: "The news of a new variant – the so-called Omicron variant – will have understandably caused concern for people across our country, including our teachers, wider education and childcare staff, parents, pupils and students.

"We are already taking targeted and proportionate action as a precaution while we find out more information about the new variant."

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Under the new rules, anyone who has been in contact with a person who tests positive with the omicron variant will have to isolate for 10 days.

Ms Zahawi continued: "As we do so, we will continue to prioritise children's and young people's education and wellbeing, making sure education and childcare settings are as safe as possible and children continue to benefit from classroom teaching.

"We are working with education and childcare settings to enhance safety measures where needed, including introducing isolation for 10 days for close contacts of suspected Omicron cases.

  • Coronavirus

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