Brits are facing changes to the face mask rules today as cases of the Covid-19 variant known as Omicron surge. Here is everything you need to know about the changes coming into force today
The UK government is attempting to keep up with a surge in cases of the coronavirus, and has therefore introduced new face mask rules from today, January 4.
Cases of the virus are high and the government hopes that masks will help stop the spread in indoor places in the country, with pupils in schools now having to wear them.
According to the latest figures 1,189,985 people tested positive for coronavirus between December 28, 2021 and January 3, 2022.
The huge case increase saw Boris Johnson’s government attempt a massive rollout of the booster jab in the lead up to the New Year, but it is believed that further restrictions are now needed as important public services feel the strain.
Hospitals in Lincolnshire, for example, have declared a ‘critical incident’ over ‘extreme and unprecedented’ staff shortages, while teaching unions are concerned about teacher shortages.
So what are the new rules regarding face masks?
What are the new face mask rules?
The new face rules directly affect schools, where face masks are now to be worn by pupils in the classroom.
New rules apply specifically to secondary school children and are in place upon the return of schools from January 4.
The government hopes that the masks will help stop the spread of the virus and limit the Omicron variant causing staff absences that disrupt education.
Four of the main teaching unions issued a joint statement calling for new measures, concerned about the number of cases, staff shortages and the need to avoid disruption to exams.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said face coverings would be required until January 26.
Zahawi said: “The painful lesson we learnt was when children weren’t in school, the impact on their mental health and, of course their education, was quite substantial.
“Which is why I’m so determined, as is the prime minister, to make sure education remains open and children are in the best place when they’re in the classroom, with their friends, learning in front of a teacher.”
What are the current rules in England?
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In England, new rules were reintroduced in December to try and slow the spread of the virus in the lead-up to Christmas. Plan B restrictions mean that face coverings are required in most indoor public spaces and on public transport.
The new rules involving masks in secondary schools are in addition to this.
Currently, masks are not required in hospitality outlets such as nightclubs, pubs, bars and restaurants.
The government said: “Face coverings are not required in hospitality venues where food and drink are consumed (such as pubs, cafés and restaurants), or during exercise (such as gyms), including dancing (such as nightclubs).”
“In indoor settings where a face covering is not legally required, you should still continue to wear a face-covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you may come into contact with other people you do not normally meet.”
A full list of the places where a mask is required can be viewed here.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.