Masks in schools: Covid restrictions are back in Sheffield to tackle Omicron variant

Covid-19 restrictions over masks in shops and schools will come into force for Sheffield on Tuesday in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant.

Monday, 29th November 2021, 6:38 pm

From Tuesday (November 30) face coverings must be worn in shops and on public transport unless medically exempt, according to a public health statement.

Pupils in Year 7 and above have been advised to wear masks in communal areas in schools as well.

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Masks and Covid restrictions have been brought back for schools, shops and public transport to combat the spread of the new Omicron variant.

It comes as two cases of the new Omicron variant first detected in South Africa last week have now been found in England.

Director of Public Health in Sheffield Greg Fell said it was “important” to take precautions to limit the spread of the virus early.

Do I need to wear a mask?

In July, wearing face masks in shops and on public transport became non-compulsory but still strongly recommended.

Pupils in Year 7 and above have been advised to wear masks in communal areas like corridors. Whether they wear them in classrooms will be up to schools.

Starting on Tuesday (November 30), the city council is asking Sheffield residents that face coverings “must be worn” in shops and on public transport, unless medically exempt.

It will still be at your discretion to wear a mask in pubs or restaurants, or at concerts or events.

The rules will be reviewed in three weeks time, according to Boris Johnson, and experts are looking at extending the booster jab programme to all over-18s.

The new rules will be enforceable by a penalty, meaning those who fail to comply will be fined.

Public transport users in Sheffield have been told they are now required to wear masks on trams and buses.

Failure to wear a mask will result in a £200 fine for the first offence, but this charge will then double for any further rule breaks.

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Does my child need to wear a mask at school?

Pupils in Year 7 and above are also being advised to wear masks in communal areas in schools.

Public transport users in South Yorkshire wearing masks as they travel by bus.

The statement from the city council – released at 3.20pm on November 29 – does not specify if this includes classrooms.

This will likely be left up to each school discretion.

Notre Dame High School, in Fulwood Road, is reportedly making masks in classrooms mandatory, while Tapton School Academy Trust, in Darwin Lane, has emailed its parents tonight advising students will be expected to wear face coverings in corridors and communal areas, but not classrooms.

When do I need to self-isolate?

Public Health is urging that all contacts of suspected Omicron cases must self-isolate, regardless of their vaccination status. They will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

International arrivals into the UK must take a Day 2 PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative test.

What is the Covid-19 Omicron variant?

There are growing fears over a new “heavily mutated” Covid-19 variant found in South Africa last week.

It has now been confirmed that two cases of the virus, dubbed the Omicron variant, have been found in England.

Early evidence suggests that the variant may be more transmissible that the Delta strain and current vaccines may be less effective against it.

Greg Fell, director of public health in Sheffield, said reducing spread of the virus comes down to “fundamentals”, of wearing a face covering, getting a booster jab and self-isolating.

He said: "New variants of concern are always a worry as we don't know exactly how transmissible they are or how effective our current vaccines will be, but they don't change how we tackle Covid. The government has acted swiftly following the emergence of this variant and that should be taken as an indicator of the level of concern.

"That's why it's important that we're getting on the front foot and taking these steps to try and limit the spread now as a precaution.

"We won't fully understand the impact of the Omicron variant for a couple of weeks, but by taking measures such as wearing face coverings now, which we know do make a difference to transmission, we can all do our bit.

"We want to go forward, not back, and it's better that we take precautionary measures now that could put us in a better position over the coming winter months. Despite these changes, I want to reassure people that there’s no need to panic. There have been no known cases of Omicron in Sheffield so far. We know this will develop over the coming days and weeks and we will provide further updates.

“As ever, guidance will be available for businesses to help make sure they're Covid-secure and Business Sheffield advisors are on hand to provide support.

"The same fundamentals still apply: get your booster jab, wear a face covering, test, isolate and take care of yourselves."

What do I do if I think I have Covid-19 symptoms?

If you have Covid-19 symptoms, you need to get a free PCR test done within 48 hours.

If you have symptoms you must also self-isolate at home and only leave your home to get a test.

If you have symptoms call 119 or follow the testing information on the NHS website www.nhs.uk/coronavirus to arrange a test.

Anyone without symptoms can also take a rapid Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test twice a week. These tests are available for everyone in England and there are several ways of getting them, such as ordering them online.

There are now nasal only LFD tests with different waiting times. The tests you get may be different to the ones you have done before so always check the pack instructions.

Information on Covid support available in Sheffield, including Test and Trace Support Payments, can be found at: www.sheffield.gov.uk/home/your-city-council/coronavirus-hub/support-for-people.

Can I travel under the new Covid rules?

All international arrivals will also have to take a PCR test by the end of their second day in the UK.