Government needs to go further on face masks guidance


Commenting on the UK Government’s announcement of new temporary measures in response to the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 in the UK, Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of NASUWT – The Teachers’ Union said:

“It is important that the Government acts not only swiftly but also effectively following the identification of the new Omicron variant in the UK.

“The reintroduction of the requirement for face coverings to be worn in communal areas in all settings by staff and visitors and by pupils in year 7 and above, including on public transport, is helpful. But there is strong evidence that the Government needs to go further, including by reintroducing the requirement for wearing face coverings in classrooms in light of the persistently high daily number of Coronavirus cases.

“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. 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.

“It is right that the Government should focus on ensuring that pupils are tested regularly. However, given that significant numbers of pupils do not undertake the recommended twice-weekly LFD tests, the Government must identify a more effective strategy for Covid testing to ensure that all schools can continue to remain open safely.

“In addition to the publication of new guidance, the Government must also ensure that schools and colleges have the additional resources they need to implement essential Covid-safety measures both in the run up to the Christmas break and on their return in the New Year.”