Boris Johnson to perform U-turn on face masks in schools, claims report

File - In this Monday, July 13, 2020 file photo, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wearing a face mask, visits the headquarters of the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust in London, Monday July 13, 2020. The British government insists that science is guiding its decisions as the country navigates its way through the coronavirus pandemic. But a self-appointed  group of independent experts led by a former government chief adviser says it sees little evidence-based about Britain’s response. Unlike other countries, the scientific opposition to Britain’s approach is remarkably organized. The independent group sits almost in parallel to the government’s own scientists, assesses the same outbreak indicators and has put out detailed reports on issues such contact tracing, reopening schools and pubs, and relaxing social distancing. (Ben Stansall/Pool via AP, File)
Boris Johnson is set to perform a U-turn on face masks in secondary schools in England, according to reports. (Pool via AP)

Boris Johnson is set to perform a U-turn on face masks in secondary schools in England, according to reports.

Face masks are set to be made “near mandatory” in communal areas, trade publication Tes reported. It added an announcement could be made on Tuesday afternoon.

The move would be in line with recent World Health Organization (WHO) advice that pupils aged 12 and over should wear a mask.

Though ministers were resisting calls for face masks to be made compulsory in schools in England as recently as Tuesday morning, Johnson later offered a hint this could change.

Speaking to reporters, the prime minister said Downing Street will consider the “changing medical evidence as we go on”.

“If we need to change the advice then of course we will,” he added.

If, as Tes reported, the government does change its policy on face masks, it would be its second major U-turn in eight days.

It would follow the decision for A-level and GCSE results to be awarded to students based on teachers’ predicted grades, after a crisis which saw nearly 40% of A-level results downgraded as a result of exam regulator Ofqual’s algorithm aimed at standardising results.

Current government guidance for schools in England does not recommend face masks because pupils and staff are mixing in consistent groups.

It adds that misuse may inadvertently increase the risk of transmission, while it could also have a negative effect on communication.

Schools are already beginning to defy the guidance, however.

Read more: The 'worrying' advice some NHS leaders gave to care homes at height of pandemic

The Oasis Academy chain, which has 32,000 pupils across 52 schools in England, said face masks will be considered part of the school uniform when they reopen next week.

Earlier on Tuesday, meanwhile, the Scottish government announced “obligatory guidance” for face masks to be worn in secondary school corridors and communal areas – as well as on school transport – from Monday.

The Welsh government has also said it will make an announcement by the end of Wednesday.

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