School face masks being worn in England to avoid Covid row with Scotland – claims

  • by Hazel Shearing
  • Education reporter

Leaked WhatsApp messages suggest England’s chief medical officer has been ambivalent about the scientific evidence behind the procedure.

A government spokesperson said: “We have always said there are lessons to be learned from the pandemic.”

They added, “We are committed to learning from the results of the Covid investigation, which will play a key role in informing the government’s planning and preparations for the future.”

‘to retreat’

Guidance has been changed to require face coverings in secondary schools in England in areas that were under local lockdown from September 2020.

Advertising made mandatory in the corridors and common areas. This was later applied to classrooms where it was not possible to move away.

The Telegraph reported that former Prime Minister Boris Johnson sought advice on face coverings in schools.

In a WhatsApp group chat on the morning of August 25, 2020, he asked if the government needed a “radical change” in its stance, the paper says.

Reportedly, Caine, then Downing Street’s director of communications, sent me a link to a BBC article announcing that face coverings would be compulsory in hallways and public areas in secondary schools in Scotland, where the school year starts earlier.

He asked if it was worth fighting because Scotland had made the move, the paper says.

According to the leaked messages, Simon Case, who has been leading the civil service’s Covid effort, is said to have warned that “nervous parents will panic” if Scotland’s example is not followed.

The Telegraph’s story comes after other WhatsApp messages were leaked to the newspaper, which suggested that the former health secretary, Matt Hancock, rejected expert advice on Covid tests for people going into care homes in England at the start of the pandemic – a claim he disputed.

The BBC has not seen or independently verified WhatsApp messages nor the context in which they were sent.

The Telegraph obtained more than 100,000 letters sent between Mr Hancock and other ministers and officials at the height of the pandemic.

The texts were passed to the paper by journalist Isabelle Oakeshott, who was critical of the closures. Mrs. Oakshott obtained copies of the transcripts while she was helping Mr. Hancock write his book, Memoirs of an Epidemic.

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said it was “not appropriate to comment” on the leaks and that the UK’s independent public inquiry into the pandemic “provides the right process for this”.

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