Health minister Edward Argar has been doing the rounds of the interview suites this morning. He has said face coverings for pupils was “not something that’s in prospect at this point”.
He told BBC Breakfast: “On the basis of the many studies we’ve seen so far, I think parents can have confidence that it’s safe for their children to go back to school and it’s very important their children do go back to school so they can continue their education.”
Asked about masks, he said: “Well, that’s not something that’s in prospect at this point. We’ve been clear and the Department for Education have been clear that that poses a challenge to actually the ability to teach and the ability to learn in certain contexts.
“At the moment we believe the measures that have been put in place around social distancing, around those bubbles and around the facility to test if necessary, are the right ones to continue to make our schools safe when they reopen.”
Asked about transmission of the virus in relation to secondary pupils, Argar said the Public Health England research was “still work in progress”.
He told Sky News: “I think we should be cautious about reading too much into that work in progress, it’s important work but it isn’t complete yet.”
He added: “On the basis of the work that has been completed and those international comparators, we are confident that children and young people are much less at risk from this disease and from passing it on than other adults more broadly in the community.
He insisted NHS Test and Trace was a “successful system” amid reports that a third of telephone contract tracers would be cut.
He told Sky News: “I think this is actually, this is a reflection of a successful system that, as we’ve always said, will flex and evolve to meet our understanding of the disease and the changing needs of our communities.
“But in terms of the ‘world beating’, the world comparators, we are one of the few countries in the world that actually publishes transparently, quite rightly so you and others can question us on it, our test and trace data.”
He added: “We are making contact with just shy of 80% of those who test positive and then we are making contact with around a similar amount of their contacts. This is better than many, many other countries, look at New Zealand, they have a slightly higher percentage success rate, they’ve traced 360 people.
“We’ve traced a quarter of a million in the space of about two and a half months, that is a significant achievement… so I do think that this is a reflection of an effective system built up rapidly that is now evolving to reflect the changing needs of local lockdowns and a local-centric approach.”