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Hertfordshire schools told to reintroduce face masks as Covid cases surge
4 November 2021, 11:16 | Updated: 4 November 2021, 11:31
Schools in Hertfordshire have been told to bring back face masks as Covid cases continue to rise.
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Director of Public Health Jim McManus and Director of Children's Services at Hertfordshire County Council Jo Fisher told parents about the new measures in a joint letter.
"You will be aware that nationally cases of COVID-19 are currently high, and Hertfordshire is no different with the highest number of cases in children and young people," read the letter.
"As a result, we are asking all schools and early-years settings to implement some additional public health measures.
"By acting quickly ahead of winter we can call help reduce the spread of the virus and protect each other and the most vulnerable members of our communities."
Staff, visitors and students in secondary schools are being recommended to wear face coverings in any indoor setting in schools, apart from when eating or drinking or when wearing a mask would impede an activity - for example, in PE or music lessons.
In early years, primary schools and special schools, staff and visitors are being asked to wear face masks when interacting inside with other adults, apart from when they are eating or drinking.
It follows earlier advice to wear face masks on school transport.
Parents visiting the school - including to pick their children up or drop them off - are also being asked to wear masks if they are inside or are unable to social distance.
The Council also used the letter to encourage students to regularly take lateral flow tests, and to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
Hertfordshire has seen more than 4,600 cases over the last seven days - the fourth highest of all upper-tier local authority areas.
It has a current Covid rate of 474.5 per 100,000 in the population.
The Government has so far resisted pressure to introduce more Covid measures nationwide.
Their Plan B would involve a number of rules, including a return to mandatory face coverings in certain settings - but Boris Johnson said that, currently, there is 'nothing to suggest' the restrictions are needed.
Teachers' Union NASUWT has previously accused the Government of "burying their heads in the sand and hoping for the best" as it urged Westminster to follow the lead of the Scottish Government and introduce mitigations to control infections in schools.
"It is vital that whatever needs to be done is done to ensure that pupils education is not further disrupted," said the union's General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach.
"There is a need for mitigations to be restored, particularly as we move into the winter when the virus is more likely to spread further and faster as more indoor mixing takes place in the community.
"Case rates in England are almost as high as at any point during the pandemic."
Dr Roach also said "clearer communication" with parents and pupils was needed to "avoid mixed messages", saying: "If pupils are being encouraged to wear face masks on school transport, many will be confused as to why such measures are not required when they are in school."