RULES making kids wear masks in classrooms are likely to be scrapped in nine days’ time, Nadhim Zahawi declared today.
The education secretary said he doesn’t want the requirement for face coverings at desks to stay “a day longer than necessary”.
And he insisted No 10 is “confident” the country can start to ditch wider Plan B restrictions from next Wednesday.
Mr Zahawi said the numbers of Omicron are “looking positive” and that cases across the country seem to be “plateauing”.
He added that there’s also “really good news” on teacher absences, which have barely risen since before Christmas.
The education secretary was asked if guidance that masks should be worn in classrooms will be scrapped when Plan B is reviewed on January 6.
He replied: “I don’t want those to be in the classroom for a day longer than necessary.
“I know it’s challenging for students to study and to interact with their teacher with masks.
“I will review it on January 26 and I hope to be able to change the guidance.”
Pressed on whether the wind is “blowing in the direction” of ending the rules, he added: “It certainly is.”
Mr Zahawi said despite the explosion of Omicron cases staff absences at schools in England have “remained pretty flat”.
They were running at 8% before Christmas and were at just 8.5% last week, the education secretary said.
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He added that he’s now confident exams will be able to happen this summer “full steam ahead” after two years of disruption.
Mr Zahawi also said he’s confident the PM will be able to ditch much of Plan B from next Wednesday thanks to the booster rollout.
He said: “The numbers are looking positive. I’m confident that when we review this we’ll be in a much better place to lift some of these restrictions.
“I think we are witnessing the transition of this virus from pandemic to endemic.
“I hope we’ll be one of the first major economies to demonstrate to the world how you transition this from pandemic to endemic.”
Plan B to end
A string of hugely positive studies show Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.
Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.
HOAR’s Jabs Army campaign is helping get the vital extra vaccines in Brits’ arms to ward off the need for any new restrictions.
His remarks come amid widespread expectation that the PM will ditch working from home and vaccine passports next Wednesday.
But the rules on mask wearing in public places could remain in place until case numbers have come down further.
Under that scenario face coverings may be dropped in classrooms but still be required in communal areas of schools.
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