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Covid advice encourages masks for some pupils in communal areas

Masks are being recommended again in secondary schools in England, days before they become mandatory again in shops and on public transport.

A third case of the Omicron variant of coronavirus has been detected in the United Kingdom.

Today, new advice from the Department of Education says that staff, pupils and visitors in year seven and older are “strongly advised” to cover their faces in public areas outside classrooms.

It says: “As of tomorrow (Monday, November 29), we strongly advise that face coverings are required to be worn in public areas in all venues by staff, visitors and students in grades seven and above, unless exempted.

“Students should continue to wear face coverings on public and designated school transportation, unless they are exempt.”

Students are also required to continue their test in stages twice a week, using lateral flow tests.

Isle of Wight high schools have not yet commented on the advice. Released late this afternoon on the Ministry of Education blog.

The advice covers all educational institutions including universities, as well as other childcare settings, such as early years care, but applies to children in the seventh year and above.

This does not mean that masks must be worn in classrooms, but it is recommended that masks be worn in public areas such as corridors.

Education Minister Nadim Zahawi said: “News of the new alternative – the so-called Omicron variant – will understandably cause concern to people across our country, including our teachers, education staff and the broader childcare, parents, pupils and students.

“We are already taking targeted and proportionate actions as a precaution as we discover more information about the new variant.

From Tuesday, a face covering will be mandatory on public transport and in stores and other places including banks, post offices and hairdressers.

Isolation rules will also return for international arrivals, until passengers receive a negative PCR test for Covid-19.

Earlier, the number of Covid-19 cases on the Isle of Wight since the start of the pandemic exceeded 18,000, when the daily update added another 123 new cases.

Read more: Covid update sees over 120 new cases on the Isle of Wight

Hospitality settings are exempt from the new face mask rule.

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