The government of the United Kingdom has been facing pressure to make wearing face masks mandatory in public places across England, although the Conservative party is staunchly opposed to the idea, denouncing the health move as going “way too far”.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson dropped his opposition to wearing face masks for schools across England, changing the guidance shortly before students are set to return to school. While earlier his guidance did not recommend wearing face masks, now it allows schools to require face coverings if they believe it is necessary.
The new guidance came after a 21 August World Health Organisation statement advising that “children aged 12 and over should wear a mask under the same conditions as adults, in particular when they cannot guarantee at least a 1-metre distance from others and there is widespread transmission in the area”.
“As a result, the government is revising its guidance on face coverings for staff and children in Year 7 or above in England. Nationwide, while the government is not recommending face coverings are necessary, schools will have the discretion to require face coverings in communal areas if they believe that is right in their particular circumstances”, new guidance states.
Additionally, the government will provide new advisories for areas “where the transmission of the virus is high”, in which masks will be required for adults and pupils in secondary schools when moving around the premises, in which it is problematic to maintain social distance.
“Our priority is to get children back to school safely. At each stage we have listened to the latest medical and scientific advice. We have therefore decided to follow the World Health Organisation’s new advice. In local lockdown areas children in year 7 and above should wear face coverings in communal spaces. Outside of local lockdown areas face coverings won’t be required in schools, though schools will have the flexibility to introduce measures if they believe it is right in their specific circumstances. I hope these steps will provide parents, pupils and teachers with further reassurance”, UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said.
The change in school guidelines for England in favor of masks, however, did not meet the approval of Conservatives, who slammed the wearing of masks in schools as going “way too far” and demanded that London “end the fear”.
“Masks should be banned in schools. The country should be getting back to normal not pandering to this scientifically illiterate guff”, stated Marcus Fysh, a Tory backbencher. “It is time to end the fear. And keep it away from our kids thank you very much.”
The initial advice, issued by the Education Department in July, stated that it would not recommend wearing masks in schools, since “pupils and staff are mixing in consistent groups, and because misuse may inadvertently increase the risk of transmission”.