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Pupils in the South West will be told to wear face coverings in communal areas

Pupils in parts of the South West will need to wear face masks in corridors and playgrounds when they return to classrooms next week.

The Department of Health announced the extra restrictions for secondary schools and colleges in the area last night to help head off a surge in Covid cases.

The measures will apply in England’s Covid hotspot Cornwall, as well as Devon, Plymouth, Torbay and the Isles of Scilly. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that although vaccines have ‘tipped the odds in our favour’ extra measures were needed to ‘control the spread of the virus’.

It came as Mr Javid told the NHS to prepare to offer vaccines to 12 to 15-year-olds to ensure they could ‘hit the ground running’ in early September.

The JCVI is yet to decide whether to vaccinate the youngest teenagers, but a SAGE adviser said today that jabbing them could limit Covid’s spread in other age groups. 

SAGE scientists warn the UK is set to face a ‘large’ Covid wave after schools return next week, with cases already averaging around 30,000 a day.

Teaching unions have said that schools face a ‘recipe for chaos’ in the autumn term, and that the predicted spike in cases is ‘extremely worrying’. 

Pupils in parts of the South West will be told to wear face masks in corridors, playgrounds and communal areas when they return to classrooms next week

It comes as SAGE scientists warn the UK could face another 'large' Covid wave as schools return. It is already averaging around 30,000 cases a day

It comes as SAGE scientists warn the UK could face another ‘large’ Covid wave as schools return. It is already averaging around 30,000 cases a day

Face masks will be brought back in secondary schools and colleges in Cornwall — England's Covid hotspot — alongside Devon, Plymouth, Torbay and the Isles of Scilly

Face masks will be brought back in secondary schools and colleges in Cornwall — England’s Covid hotspot — alongside Devon, Plymouth, Torbay and the Isles of Scilly

The Department of Health said face masks would be required in ‘communal areas’ in the affected areas.

The areas will also receive additional support to maximise vaccine uptake and testing for the virus. Local residents were urged to ‘remain cautious’, and to wear face masks in crowded areas such as public transport and ventilate their homes.

Which schools will need to wear face masks? 

Pupils in parts of the South West will be told to wear face masks in ‘communal areas’ when they return to schools next week.

The Department of Health announced the extra restrictions last night to help head off a surge in Covid cases.

They also said the schools and their local areas would receive support for more Covid testing and to boost vaccine uptake.

Secondary schools and colleges in the following areas will be affected:

  • Cornwall
  • Devon
  • Plymouth
  • Torbay
  • The Isles of Scilly

Mr Javid said: ‘Vaccines have built an enormous wall of defence that spans the length of the country, allowing us to regain our lost freedoms — from seeing out loved ones to going on holiday.

‘(But) while vaccines have tipped the odds in our favour, we have to keep listening to the data. 

‘To control the spread of the virus we’re working closely with local authorities… to make sure testing is widely available and as many people as possible are protected by the vaccine.’ 

He added: ‘I would urge anyone whether they live in, work in or are just visiting these beautiful areas, to test regularly and make sure you come forward for your jab at the earliest opportunity.’

These measures could be extended to other areas should they also experience a spike in Covid cases. 

Cornwall — England’s Covid hotspot — saw its Covid cases double last week according to Public Health England, in the biggest surge in infections in the country.

The area — along with the Isles of Scilly — has an infection rate at 828.5 cases per 100,000 residents, or one in 120 people being infected last week.

In Devon the infection rate is 622 per 100,000, or one in 160, while in Torbay it is 621 per 100,000, or one in 161. In Plymouth it is 563 per 100,000, or one in 177. 

Children and teenagers will be required to take two lateral flow tests in school when they return next week, and then test themselves for the virus twice every week.

Those who test positive will be asked to isolate for ten days. But updated guidance says their close contacts will be allowed to continue attending classes, and will not need to self-isolate.

Official figures showed more than 750,000 children had to self-isolate during the last academic year despite there being only 40,000 cases of the virus.

New guidance will also require face masks to be worn again in schools that experience a Covid ‘surge’, when five cases are recorded within ten days.

It will also see them receive increased support for testing for the virus, and asked to take action to control the spread of the virus such as opening windows.

It came as Mr Javid told the NHS to prepare to vaccinate 12 to 15-year-olds ahead of guidance from No10’s top scientists.

The Health Secretary said he was putting plans in place so the country was ‘ready to hit the ground running’ if the JCVI – the Government’s independent advisers – gave the go-ahead to jab younger children.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the measures were needed to help 'control the spread of the virus'. He has also told the NHS to start preparing to vaccinate 12 to 15-year-olds

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (right) has said he wants to see the youngest teenagers jabbed

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the measures were needed to help ‘control the spread of the virus’. He has also told the NHS to start preparing to vaccinate 12 to 15-year-olds. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (right) has said he wants to see the youngest teenagers jabbed

There are warnings the country will face a 'large' Covid wave when schools return in England and Wales. This graph shows Covid cases in Scotland, where schools returned a week ago. The country recorded a record 6,835 new cases yesterday

There are warnings the country will face a ‘large’ Covid wave when schools return in England and Wales. This graph shows Covid cases in Scotland, where schools returned a week ago. The country recorded a record 6,835 new cases yesterday

Health Secretary Sajid Javid tells the NHS to prepare to inoculate 12 to 15-year-olds

Sajid Javid last night told the NHS to start preparing to jab children as young as 12 as Sage committee scientists warned a ‘large’ Covid wave was likely to hit schools next month.

The Health Secretary said he was putting plans in place so the country was ‘ready to hit the ground running’ if the JCVI – the Government’s independent advisers – gave the go-ahead to jab younger children.

The NHS has been told to start recruiting and training staff to go into schools to give pupils Covid jabs early next term, if they’re approved. Headteachers will be told to prepare space where the vaccines can be given or be ready to allow pupils time out of lessons to get the jab elsewhere.

It is the clearest signal yet that ministers expect the jab for younger children to be approved imminently.

It came as experts warned the Government to plan for a surge in infections at the end of September, following the return of children from the summer holidays. Their fears were detailed in a document from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, Operational sub-group (SPI-M-O). 

Its advisers said it was highly likely there would be an exponential increase in infections among school-aged children after classes returned. 

And they noted that measures in place before the new term, such as bubbles and stricter rules on isolating, would no longer apply.

Mr Javid said it was important for the NHS and schools to be prepared.

He said offering all teenagers a coronavirus jab will ‘solidify our wall of protection’ against the disease in a move that will pile pressure on the JCVI to approve the move.

Writing in The Times, Mr Javid said that with the rise of the Delta variant, ‘the more the population is protected by a vaccine, the more protection society as a whole will have from Covid-19’. 

The Department of Health stressed parental consent will be sought before vaccinating children, although it is unclear if children can overrule their parents.

It also emerged last night that secondary school and college pupils will need to wear face masks in communal areas outside of their classrooms in areas of the south-west of England, as extra support was pledged in response to a rise in coronavirus cases. 

The NHS has been told to start recruiting and training staff to go into schools to give pupils Covid jabs early next term, if they’re approved. Headteachers will be told to prepare space where the vaccines can be given or be ready to allow pupils time out of lessons to get the jab elsewhere.

It is the clearest signal yet that ministers expect the jab for younger children to be approved imminently.

The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has signalled his support for vaccinating children.

He was reported in the FT to have said: ‘We’re seeing the rollout of the vaccine for 16 to 17-year-olds, I very much hope and want to see that offered more widely.’

SAGE adviser and Warwick University epidemiologist Dr Mike Tildesley said this morning that vaccinating younger age groups could protect older adults from the virus.

He told Times radio: ‘When schools reopen that does lead to more children mixing in closed environments.

‘We have to remember… when we talk about schools going back, it’s not really the risk around schools, schools are no more risky than any other environment where people mix in close proximity to one another.

‘But it’s what happens around schools, when schools go back parents tend to return to work and people mix in other environments.

‘So it’s that sort of protection that if we have high levels of vaccination across younger age groups, it should provide that both direct and indirect protection in those settings.’

It came as experts warned the Government to plan for a surge in infections at the end of September, following the return of children from the summer holidays. 

Their fears were detailed in a document from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, Operational sub-group (SPI-M-O). 

Its advisers said it was highly likely there would be an exponential increase in infections among school-aged children after classes returned. 

And they noted that measures in place before the new term, such as bubbles and stricter rules on isolating, would no longer apply.

Mr Javid said it was important for the NHS and schools to be prepared.

Unions have warned schools face an autumn term of ‘chaos’ because of predicted outbreaks of the virus.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said yesterday it was ‘extremely worrying’.

Julie McCulloch, its director of policy, told the TES: ‘It is extremely worrying to see scientific advisers concluding that exponential increases in Covid infections are highly likely in school-age children and demonstrates that the situation is on a knife edge as the new term approaches.

‘We simply cannot have another term of disruption and it is vital that the government is ready to respond rapidly to any upsurge in infections with more support for schools and colleges.

‘The government has published a contingency framework which maps out a series of measures in response to outbreaks of Covid.

‘But there is a realy danger that this will become the normal state of affairs with various measures being implemented on a local basis.’

The joint general secretary of the NEU, Kevin Courtney, said: ‘The statement from SAGE is a rebuke to Gavin Williamson.

‘Next to nothing has been done to prepare for the possibility of large numbers of cases, which will lead to lots of education disruption as children and staff have to isolate because they are positive — or stay off because their Covid symptoms go on longer.

‘It is only right to recognise that a large percentage of the school community is unvaccinated, and that this will remain the case for a while yet.

‘We cannot just assume a return to normal from the start of term. The bringing together of a school community of several million will inevitably lead to a rise in case counts.’

More than 8.9million children are set to return to school in England and Wales from next week, official figures show.

In Scotland — where schools returned last week — cases have already spiked to record highs. Yesterday the country recorded 6,835 cases, the highest number since the pandemic began and almost double those registered last Friday.

Experts have warned England and Wales should brace for a similar surge when schools return.


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