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Covid Indian variant: North West pupils keep face masks Covid Indian variant: Pupils keep face masks in parts of North West
(32 minutes later)
Government advice on wearing masks in schools is due to change on Monday in EnglandGovernment advice on wearing masks in schools is due to change on Monday in England
Secondary school pupils and college students in North West England will continue wearing masks because of concerns about the Covid-19 Indian variant. Secondary school pupils and college students in parts of north-west England will continue wearing masks because of concerns about the Covid-19 Indian variant.
Pupils and students across Lancashire are being advised to use face coverings until 21 June. Bolton and Bury councils have also said masks will remain.Pupils and students across Lancashire are being advised to use face coverings until 21 June. Bolton and Bury councils have also said masks will remain.
The advice comes following a surge in coronavirus cases across the region.The advice comes following a surge in coronavirus cases across the region.
Government advice in England from Monday will allow mask removal indoors. Elsewhere masks will no longer be required in classrooms from Monday.
The Indian variant has been detected in Bolton, Greater Manchester, in Blackburn, Lancashire and in Sefton, Merseyside, which have all seen rates rise rapidly.The Indian variant has been detected in Bolton, Greater Manchester, in Blackburn, Lancashire and in Sefton, Merseyside, which have all seen rates rise rapidly.
In a coronavirus briefing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the variant could pose "serious disruption" to lockdown easing in England on 21 June, but added that he did not believe that the "present evidence" showed a need to delay the next stage in the easing of lockdown in England on Monday.In a coronavirus briefing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the variant could pose "serious disruption" to lockdown easing in England on 21 June, but added that he did not believe that the "present evidence" showed a need to delay the next stage in the easing of lockdown in England on Monday.
Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Lancashire County Council's director of public health, said recommending that masks remain in use was "very tough", given that it comes as other restrictions ease nationally, but the "increase in prevalence of this variant... means we need to take some prudent steps to help reduce its spread".Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Lancashire County Council's director of public health, said recommending that masks remain in use was "very tough", given that it comes as other restrictions ease nationally, but the "increase in prevalence of this variant... means we need to take some prudent steps to help reduce its spread".
"Wearing face coverings in schools and colleges for a few weeks longer will help to contain this and ensure the variant doesn't take hold," he said."Wearing face coverings in schools and colleges for a few weeks longer will help to contain this and ensure the variant doesn't take hold," he said.
"This is vital, so we can build on the good work to keep levels of infection, hospital admissions and the numbers of people becoming seriously ill low.""This is vital, so we can build on the good work to keep levels of infection, hospital admissions and the numbers of people becoming seriously ill low."
'More infectious''More infectious'
A letter from the council to parents in Bolton, which currently has the highest rate of cases in England, said it was "asking schools to retain the use of face coverings, as per the current arrangements, until further notice".A letter from the council to parents in Bolton, which currently has the highest rate of cases in England, said it was "asking schools to retain the use of face coverings, as per the current arrangements, until further notice".
The letter, from the council's children's services and public health directors, said there had been "instances where young people attending school or college have contributed to the spread of the virus".The letter, from the council's children's services and public health directors, said there had been "instances where young people attending school or college have contributed to the spread of the virus".
As such, it said, "we believe it would be irresponsible to wait until we have higher levels of the newer variants... circulating before we act".As such, it said, "we believe it would be irresponsible to wait until we have higher levels of the newer variants... circulating before we act".
In a similar letter, Bury Council's interim assistant director of education and inclusion, Julien Kramer, said there was a risk that progress made in reducing case numbers could be "undermined by the spread of this more infectious variant".In a similar letter, Bury Council's interim assistant director of education and inclusion, Julien Kramer, said there was a risk that progress made in reducing case numbers could be "undermined by the spread of this more infectious variant".
"I am sure that you will understand the need for caution at this time," he added."I am sure that you will understand the need for caution at this time," he added.
Sefton's public health team has also advised that masks should be worn in schools beyond Monday in areas experiencing outbreaks.Sefton's public health team has also advised that masks should be worn in schools beyond Monday in areas experiencing outbreaks.
The move has been supported by the Association of School and College Leaders teaching union.The move has been supported by the Association of School and College Leaders teaching union.
General secretary Geoff Barton said there was "clearly a great deal of concern about the variant...and the situation is obviously going to be fluid in the immediate future with regards to face masks".General secretary Geoff Barton said there was "clearly a great deal of concern about the variant...and the situation is obviously going to be fluid in the immediate future with regards to face masks".
"We back schools in the decisions they make," he added."We back schools in the decisions they make," he added.
Why not follow BBC North West on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? You can also send story ideas to northwest.newsonline@bbc.co.ukWhy not follow BBC North West on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? You can also send story ideas to northwest.newsonline@bbc.co.uk