Covid: Face masks in England’s classrooms and staff absences may hit 25%on January 2, 2022 at 6:33 am

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Five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Sunday morning.

Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Sunday morning. We’ll have another update for you tomorrow.

1. Face masks to be worn in England’s classrooms

Face masks are to be worn in secondary classrooms in England to curb the spread of the Omicron variant, the government has announced. The temporary reintroduction of face coverings aims to address concerns about schools staying open for face-to-face learning this coming term. Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi says the new rules will run until 26 January. Meanwhile, six school staff unions have warned national exams will be put at risk without further measures.

A teenage boy in a mask in a classroom

Image source, Getty Images

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2. Workplaces told to plan for absences of up to 25%

One in four people could be off work as Covid cases hit all-time highs, the government has warned. Ministers have been tasked with developing “robust contingency plans” for workplace absences and public sector leaders have been asked to prepare for “worst case scenarios” of 10%, 20% and 25% absence rates, the Cabinet Office said. Transport, the NHS and schools have already seen the effect of absences as more and more people have to self-isolate.

A waiter holding a tray of wine and wine glasses

Image source, PA Media

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3. Pupils in Scotland urged to get second jabs before new term

Younger people aged between 12 and 15 in Scotland are being urged to get their second coronavirus vaccine before returning to school. Drop-in sessions for the age group are starting from Monday for those who had their first vaccination at least 12 weeks ago. Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said an increase in capacity meant they were being offered earlier than planned – and scheduled appointments can also be brought forward.

teenager getting a vaccine

Image source, Getty Images

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4. US flight cancellations hit new holiday record

Flight cancellations in the US have hit a new peak in a Christmas season hit hard by the Covid pandemic and bad weather. Around the world, nearly 4,400 flights were cancelled on Saturday – and more than 2,500 of them were in the US, according to air traffic site FlightAware. Airlines have been struggling with staff self-isolating as well as heavy snow hitting central US. Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports have been particularly bad hit, making up for 1,000 of the country’s cancellations.

Air passengers at Miami Airport, Florida

Image source, Getty Images

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5. Antarctic outpost hit by Covid outbreak

One of the world’s most remote workplaces – a Belgian scientific research station in Antarctica – has been hit with an outbreak of Covid. Since 14 December, at least 16 of the 25 workers at the Princess Elisabeth Polar Station have caught the virus. All are fully vaccinated and officials say cases remain mild so far. Every resident was offered the chance to leave on a scheduled flight in two weeks’ time, but chose to stay and continue their work, Joseph Cheek, a project manager for the International Polar Foundation, told the BBC.

A picture of the exterior of the Polar Research Station

Image source, International Polar Foundation

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And there’s more…

Face coverings are now compulsory in many indoor spaces across the UK. Catch up on the latest rules here.

You can find more information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page.

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