The government will lift its recommendation that masks be worn in secondary school, college and training provider classrooms from tomorrow, Boris Johnson has said.
Rules requiring coverings are worn in indoor communal areas will no longer apply from Thursday next week (January 27).
The recommendation for face masks in classrooms was brought back in early January, while masks have been recommended in communal areas since late November.
Johnson addressed MPs today following a cabinet meeting this morning where ministers decided to allow plan B regulations put in place to tackle the Omicron variant of Covid to expire.
He said the latest Office for National Statistics data showed infections were “falling”, and while they were “likely to continue rising” in some places including primary schools, “our scientists believe it is likely that the Omicron wave has now peaked nationally”.
“From tomorrow we will no longer require face masks in the classroom, and the Department for Education will shortly remove national guidance on their use in communal areas,” he told the House of Commons.
Measures requiring self-isolation for those who test positive will remain in place, but Johnson said there would “soon come a time when we can remove the legal requirement to self-isolate altogether”.
He said self-isolation regulations were due to expire on March 24 “at which point I very much expect not to renew them”. He added that “were the data to allow I would like to seek a vote in this House to bring that date forwards”.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the announcement would be welcomed “if it is supported by sound public health and scientific advice”.
But he warned of a “danger that we are heading once again for a situation in which the government gives the impression that the crisis is over when in actual fact there is huge disruption continuing to take place in education”.
He added that the situation in schools and colleges “remains extremely challenging with significant levels of pupil and staff absence because of Covid-19 as well as difficulties in obtaining supply cover because of high demand”.