Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

The UK government has undertaken to rush ventilation units and enough COVID-19 test kits to schools to ensure they can reopen later this week despite rising infection rates fueled by the Omicron variant.

Secondary school pupils in England will be required to wear face masks when they return to classes after the Christmas holidays and they may also face merged classes amid staff shortages.

“The priority is to keep schools open,” British Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News on Monday. “The testing, the staff support we put in place, and of course, the ventilation is going to make a big difference to schools this year.”

Omicron has caused the UK’s virus caseload rises during Christmas and the New Year, with 137,583 infections and 73 deaths reported for England and Wales on Sunday.

Scotland, meanwhile, recorded a further 20,217 infections on Monday, the highest daily figure of the pandemic. Figures for Northern Ireland, the UK’s other constituent nation, would be released later Monday.

Staff absence

Patrick Roach, general secretary of the British teachers’ union NASUWT, welcomed the news that more ventilation units and test kits would be available, but warned on Sunday that the education sector still had an urgent problem as schools prepared to reopen.

“The availability of teachers and support staff is also a major pressure point for schools this term, as the number of COVID cases continues to increase,” Roach said.

Zahawi addressed the issue on Monday, saying the government continues to monitor staff absences amid the pandemic. He said absenteeism was about 8 percent last year.

“As it rises further, we look at things like adding classes together, teaching in larger numbers,” he said.

Zahawi also said he hopes guidance that high school children should wear masks in the classroom again will not be in place “for a day longer than we need it”.

PM Johnson resists stricter restrictions

Despite the boom in COVID-19 infections, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resisted introducing new restrictions in England, but instead sought an increased booster vaccination program to spread the word. Omicron.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which control their own rules, have introduced some new measures.

Johnson warned on Monday that the pressure on hospitals would be “significant” in the next few weeks, but added that Omicron was “already lighter” than previous variants and that the UK was now in a stronger position than it was earlier in the year. was pandemic.

The prime minister last month introduced restrictive measures in England, known as “Plan B”, including wearing face masks on public transport and in shops, but stopped ordering restrictions on events or closing businesses.

“The way forward for the country as a whole is to continue on the path we are on,” he told broadcasters on Monday. “Of course we will keep all measures in mind, but the mix of things we are doing at the moment is, I think, the right one.”

Schools reopen in Germany, France

Elsewhere across Europe, schools were also preparing for another new term overshadowed or already reopened by the global pandemic.

Children returned to class on Monday in several parts of Germany, where patchy testing and reporting during the holiday season meant the level of infections was somewhat uncertain.

More than 12 million French children have also returned to school, with new rules aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. French children from the age of six have been forced to wear a face mask in classrooms since November.

If a child tests positive, all other children in the same class must test negative three times in the next four days to stay at school. The first antigen or PCR test should be performed by a healthcare professional, followed by self-tests every two days, which should be provided free of charge by pharmacies.

The move comes amid record high infection rates reported by the distribution of Omicron.

Italian schools will only reopen next week, but local leaders are already considering possible delays due to an increase in cases in the country.

Meanwhile, the Dutch caretaker government met on Monday to decide whether children will be allowed into the classrooms next week after a holiday extended to three weeks as part of a nationwide restriction that will last until January 14.

The Dutch collapse in recent weeks has led to reductions in infection rates, but numbers have started to climb again with Omicron now dominating the Netherlands.

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