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Face covering recommendation for Lancashire schools and colleges

Lancashire schools and colleges are being advised that pupils and staff should continue to wear face coverings until 21 June despite restrictions relaxing nationally next week.

The recommendation, from directors of public health across the North West, comes amid concerns about the spread across the region of the variant of global concern that was first detected in India.

The directors of public health from Lancashire County Council and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council have jointly agreed on the recommendation to prevent further spread following the further easement of restrictions on Monday and to reduce the disruption in education settings. They have written to schools and colleges with this recommendation.

Continuing to use face coverings in schools along with maintaining hand washing, social distancing, fresh air and regular testing will help to control the spread of the variant.

The advice will be reviewed ahead of 21 June, the next milestone in the government's roadmap.

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Lancashire County Council's director of public health, said: "This is a very tough recommendation to make at a time when the restrictions are set to ease nationally on Monday 17 May.

"But the increase in prevalence of this variant in the North West means we need to take some prudent steps to help reduce its spread. Wearing face coverings in schools and colleges for a few weeks longer will help to contain this and ensure the variant doesn't take hold.

"This is vital so we can build on the good work to keep levels of infection, hospital admissions and the numbers of people becoming seriously ill low.

"We want to do all we can to keep our schools and colleges open. The classroom is the best place for children to learn. Wearing face coverings for just a few weeks longer until we control the situation is an effective way of helping us to do this.

"This is local health protection guidance and ultimately the decision on usage of face coverings in individual schools and colleges will be made by headteachers and principals.

"Thank you to headteachers, principals, schools, colleges and parents for their support so far. The county council's public health team will continue to work with Public Health England, the NHS and other local authorities and agencies to monitor the situation and advise schools and colleges accordingly."

The situation will be reviewed on 21 June.

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