Nadhim Zahawi has said he hopes that guidance for secondary school pupils to wear face masks in classrooms will not be in place “for a day longer than we need it”.
Students returning to secondary schools in England this week will be required to wear face masks in a bid to curb the spread of the omicron variant until at least January 26, when current Plan B rules are due to expire. They will also be tested for Covid on site at least once before they re-enter classrooms, and will be urged to take twice-weekly tests at home.
Speaking on Times Radio, the Education Secretary said: “It’s one of a number of really important mitigations to make sure that education is fully open and children are in school, in class… What we’re saying is, look, with omicron, because it’s so infectious, we want to make sure that we give you as many tools to be able to make sure that education is open.”
But he admitted it was “more challenging, of course, to deliver education with masks on in the classroom”.
Ministers will meet on Wednesday to review the current Plan B measures upon their return to Parliament – three weeks since the measures were introduced.
However, Mr Zahawi said there was “nothing in the data” to suggest further coronavirus restrictions will be needed later this week.
“There’s some really good data from London that it looks like the infection rates are plateauing, if not yet coming down. But we are seeing leakage into the over-50s in terms of infections, and it’s generally the over-50s who end up with severe infection and hospitalisation,” he told the BBC.