Secondary school children in England have been asked to wear masks in classrooms in face of the increasing threat of the omicron variant of coronavirus.  

The Department for Education said the advice was “short-term only to support pupils and teachers as they return to schools this term” and would remain in place until 26 January, when it would be reviewed, according to a report by The Guardian.  

The reopening of schools during COVID-19 has been a divisive issue. Six school staff unions in England have issued a demand for urgent action to limit the spread of the virus.

Also Read | 90% of COVID patients hospitalised in UK didn’t take booster shot: PM

They have also demanded air-cleaning units, financial support for absence cover, help with on-site testing and a relaxation of the Ofsted inspection regime, BBC reported. 

Notably, England was the only country out of the four UK nations where face masks were not required in classrooms. The new rule comes in face of rising COVID-19 cases, possibly fuelled by the more transmissible Omicron variant, as schools gradually repoen after the Christmas break. 

The latest government figures show that there are more than 24,400 schools in England.

Also Read | UK, US record huge surge in daily COVID-19 cases as omicron spreads

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, while announcing the regulation, said, “There is no doubt that the Omicron variant presents challenges but the entire education sector has responded with a Herculean effort, and for that I thank each and every one of you.

“The prime minister and I have been clear that education is our number one priority. These measures will bolster our support to schools as we do everything in our power to minimise disruption,” he added, reported BBC.

Also Read | US colleges returning to online classes amid COVID surge

The government will also be making available 7,000 air cleaning units to early years institutions, schools, and colleges.