Omicron: All staff and learners in Wales to wear masks in schools, colleges and universities, Education Minister says
All staff and learners in Wales’ secondary schools, colleges and universities should now wear face coverings while indoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained, the Education Minister has said.
Jeremy Miles made the move in response to the emergence of the new Omicron variant which he described as a “serious development in the ongoing pandemic”.
He described the shift to face masks in all indoor settings as a “temporary, precautionary measure that will be in place for the remaining weeks of term at which point the position will be reviewed. This should come into effect in all settings as soon as possible”.
“Many settings are already operating on this basis, guided by their local risk assessment, but this will now become a national approach,” he said.
“Throughout the pandemic the Welsh Government’s priority has been to maximise learning and to minimise disruption for our young people. With three weeks left of term, it is vital that we ensure that learning can continue for as many learners as possible.
“There remains a lot we don’t know about this new variant. With this high level of uncertainty, it is right that we remain cautious while prioritising the continuation of education. It reinforces the need for everyone in Wales to get their vaccine or booster when offered, wear face coverings when necessary, and book a test if they develop symptoms.”
Jeremy Miles added that he would be writing to schools, colleges and universities tomorrow setting out this new guidance.
He also confirmed that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s recommendations on booster jabs would be acted upon in Wales.
The JCVI, which advises the governments of the UK, said today that everyone over the age of 18 should now be given a third ‘booster’ jab against Covid.
“We will continue to monitor the situation and encourage anyone who is eligible to take up the offer of vaccination to do so,” Jeremy Miles said.
“The JCVI today published their latest advice and, in line with the other nations of the UK, we will begin operationalising this advice as quickly and as safely as possible. Staff and secondary learners should also make full use of the offer of LFT testing and follow the latest public health advice.”
The JCVI said that that a third vaccine jab should be available to all adults following the discovery of the potentially more transmissible Omicron variant.
The advised gap between the second jab and the booster should now be shortened to just three months, they said. They also recommended a fourth jab for the severely immunosuppressed and a second jab for 12-15 year olds.
JCVI said these boosters should be made up of either a Pfizer vaccine or a half dose of the Moderna jab.
At the moment only over 40s can get the booster jab in Wales and have it at least six months after the second jab.
Nine cases of Omicron have been identified in England and Scotland, but none yet in Wales. Mark Drakeford said earlier that it was “only a matter of time” before the variant was discovered in Wales.
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