Omicron variant - new measures by the department for education
- AuthorThomas Emmett
Over the last few days news has spread of the discovery of a new variant of SARS-CoV-2.
New variants are not uncommon and most do not make the news. However, this variant named by the World Health Organisation as “Omicron” is of particular concern because of the large number of mutations it has.
Scientists are working hard to confirm whether the mutations cause, among other things, the current SARS-CoV-2 vaccines to be less effective in providing people with protection from hospitalisation and serious illness.
The Government has moved to implement precautionary targeted measures whilst further information is being gathered about the omicron variant. The measures apply in early year settings, out-of-school settings, schools, colleges and universities.
From today the Department for Education is “strongly advising” that face coverings should be worn by staff, visitors to educational institutions and settings, and by pupils in year 7 or above in communal areas (unless they are exempt). Pupils in year 7 or above are still expected to wear face coverings on public and school transport, unless they are exempt.
In terms of testing, nothing has changed. The Department for Education advises that educational institutions and settings should continue to encourage the use of lateral flow tests.
Contact tracing and isolation
There is also no change in respect of contact tracing and isolation, apart from one exception. As before, close contacts of those who have tested positive for Covid-19 should take PCR tests, but do not need to isolate unless they are over 18 and unvaccinated.
The exception to the rule applies to contacts of people who are confirmed or suspected to have contracted the Omicron variant of the virus. Contacts of those people must isolate for 10 days.
All staff and students aged 12 and over are encouraged to take a Covid-19 vaccine.
The Government has updated the “red list” of countries. It advises that educational institutions and settings should reconsider whether international visits are appropriate considering the potential disruption caused to learning by the need to isolate and test upon return to the United Kingdom.
If you have any questions relating to the updated guidance, please give Thomas Emmett, Head of Education, a call on 01245 453847 or send Thomas an email at email@example.com.