Boris Johnson was today facing a furious backlash from Conservative MPs over his last-minute U-turn on face-coverings in school, with one backbencher calling on him to “get a grip on our scientists”.
Huw Merriman said the treatment of young people during the coronavirus pandemic had been an “absolute disgrace “ and the public was “sick and tired” of seeing advice constantly changing in a way that made it appear the government was “making it up as we go along”.
He warned that the new guidance that staff and students must wear masks in communal areas of secondary schools in lockdown areas like Manchester and Birmingham was “sending out the wrong message” that schools are unsafe, setting them on a “slippery slope” to mandating masks in the classroom.
The new advice released late on Tuesday by education secretary Gavin Williamson – just days before schools in England and Wales open their doors to all students next week – gave headteachers elsewhere in England the discretion on whether masks are required.
The measures followed the announcement of more stringent measure by devolved authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where face coverings are required in all secondaries. The Welsh government is expected to announce the result of a review by scientific advisers today.