Secondary school and college pupils will need to wear face masks in communal areas outside of their classrooms yet again in areas of the south west of England as extra support was pledged in response to a rise in coronavirus cases.
The Department of Health and Social Care said that from Friday Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Plymouth and Torbay local authority areas – which have seen a rise in cases – will get help to increase vaccine and testing uptake, and deliver more public health messaging.
And although schools will return from next week as planned, students in secondary schools and colleges will again need to wear face masks in communal areas after the guidance was scrapped on July 19.
The new measures are expected to be in place for five weeks, with the impact monitored.
It comes after new figures showed growing numbers of local areas – including in the South West – were recording their highest rates of new cases of Covid-19 since comparable records began, as the third wave of coronavirus continues to pick up pace across the country.
The return of schools, a bank holiday weekend about to begin in all nations except Scotland, and a busy calendar of sport and music events likely to attract large crowds are all feared to be events that could push rates higher.
Professor Mike Wade, deputy regional director and NHS regional director of public health for Public Health England South West, said: “The announcement that parts of the South West are entering an enhanced response area (ERA) is a reminder that Covid has not gone away.
“There are no additional restrictions on the areas receiving additional support or for residents or visitors, but with cases of Covid remaining high and the whole of the South West having the highest regional rates, everyone is asked to continue to act carefully and responsibly.
“We are working with partners and our local authority directors of public health to deliver some additional support to these areas which we hope will amplify the excellent work that is already taking place and allow them more flexibility to introduce additional public health measures if considered necessary. For example, recommending use of face coverings in communal areas in educational settings.
“Our advice to residents and anyone visiting the South West remains the same, Covid has not gone on holiday. With the bank holiday weekend ahead of us, day trippers, holidaymakers and residents need to protect themselves and others from Covid-19 and continue to exercise caution. We know that the more people mix, the more opportunities there are for the virus to spread.”