The British government has defended its recommendation that secondary school pupils should wear face coverings inside classrooms when they return to school next month, a move that has attracted criticism from parents and lawmakers.
“We are recommending that secondary school pupils wear face coverings in classrooms as a temporary measure until Easter to provide additional reassurance and protection against the transmission of coronavirus where social distancing measures are not possible,” a government spokesperson said in a statement emailed to The Epoch Times on Thursday.
In its “roadmap” out of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus lockdown, unveiled by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday, the government recommended that the use of face coverings in secondary schools is extended to “all indoor environments—including classrooms—unless 2 metre social distancing can be maintained.”
According to the government, the wearing of face coverings in classrooms is “being introduced for a limited time until Easter” and will be kept under review.
It also said the recommendation “will not apply in situations where a face covering would impact on the ability to take part in exercise or strenuous activity, for example PE lessons.”
This new recommendation represents a significant shift in the government’s stance on the wearing of face coverings in schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In August 2020, Johnson said to the media that asking pupils to wear masks inside classrooms would be “clearly nonsensical,” as “you can’t teach with face coverings, you can’t expect pupils to learn with face coverings.”
The big question for @BorisJohnson is: ‘what has changed?’
‼️School closures have already led to 840 million missed school days. Current proposals severely impact upon children’s opportunities to catch up.
— UsforThemUK ⭐️ (@UsforThemUK) February 25, 2021
Parent campaign group UsForThem posted Johnson’s past remarks on Twitter and asked “What has changed?”
“School closures have already led to 840 million missed school days. Current proposals severely impact upon children’s opportunities to catch up. This cannot happen,” the group said.
Conservative MP Huw Merriman said on Twitter he was “disappointed” that face coverings are to be worn in classrooms, which he called “a backwards step which won’t help with catch-up.”
The government spokesperson responded to criticisms by saying, “Throughout this pandemic, we have based our guidance on the latest scientific and medical advice, and we will continue to keep our guidance under review and update it as required.”
The Department for Education’s operational guidance (pdf) stressed that it was a recommendation rather than an order.
“No pupil should be denied education on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering,” it states.