Facemasks to be compulsory at high-risk English universities

By Nicole Wootton-Cane• Last updated: Jun 26, 2023
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Students and staff at English universities will be made to wear face coverings in communal areas if they are high-transmission areas of the country, in line with new government regulations.

The new measures, which will come into effect on September 1st, follow a U-turn in government guidance over whether masks should be worn in English schools. 

Initially, the government insisted that face coverings were not necessary in schools, but reversed their stance for high-risk areas after outcry from parents, children and teachers. 

Many universities had already planned to enforce measures around wearing facemasks on campus, with some even asking students and staff to wear coverings in lectures and seminars. Last week, a Times Higher Education survey of 69 institutions revealed that 53 already have plans to require staff and students to wear face coverings in communal areas on campus unless they have a medical reason not to.

But the announcement means that those institutions in Greater Manchester and Leicestersire who weren’t previously planning on enforcing rules around mandatory face masks, will now have to put them in place. 

Previous government guidance on the reopening of university campuses did not mention face coverings, except to highlight the need to wear them on public transport when travelling to and from campus. 

However, the change follows updated advice from the World Health Organisation, recommending that children aged 12 and over wear face masks under the same conditions as adults. 

Speaking about the policy reversal, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “At each stage, we have listened to the latest medical and scientific advice. We have therefore decided to follow the World Health Organisation’s new advice.”

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