The education minister said the government plans to lift the face mask requirement for secondary school students in England despite opposition from unions.
Gavin Williamson told the Telegraph that the government intends to remove the measure from lockdown in step three of its roadmap, which will be no sooner than May 17.
According to the newspaper, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to make the announcement on Monday.
A group of trade unions and academics wrote to Mr. Williamson, demanding that face-covering remain in schools until at least June 21st, describing the action as “an essential part of the broader control system in schools”.
But Mr Williamson told the Telegraph, “As infection rates continue to fall and our vaccination program comes in successfully, we plan to remove the need for face-covering in the classroom in step three of the roadmap.”
He added, “Removing face masks will greatly improve the interaction between teachers and students while all other security measures are in place for the school to keep the virus out of the classrooms.”
The letter to Mr Williamson from five unions representing teachers and support staff, as well as academics, public health experts and parents, highlights concerns about the risks of developing a long covid and warns that an estimated 43,000 children and 114,000 school staff are suspected suffer from the disease.
The letter says: “Lifting these necessary protective measures if there are already too few mitigation measures in schools and the Covid-19 rates are still significant, this would have consequences for the health of our children and their parents as well as their communities. ”
A spokesman for the Education Department said: “As infection rates continue to fall and our vaccination program is successfully implemented, we plan to remove the requirement for face coverings in the classroom as per step three of the roadmap.
“Virus transmission in schools continues to decline. The latest data shows that thanks to our twice-weekly rapid testing program, students and staff have seen a positive decrease in positive and quickly isolated cases.”