Boris Johnson insisted on October 31 that he had no choice but to impose a second national lockdown to save tens of thousands of lives in the second wave of coronavirus.
From 12.01am on November 5, England will be plunged into the harshest measures since the original lockdown in the spring, subject to a vote in Parliament on November 4.
The new rules will apply until at least December 2, when the three-tier system is expected to return.
For now, the Government insists it has no plans to close schools.
Schools reopened in September and the Department for Education published 25,000 words of guidance explaining how schoolchildren and staff should be kept safe.
Will schools close again?
Despite announcing a raft of new restrictions in September and October, Mr Johnson insisted that schools and colleges should only ever be shut again as a “very, very last resort“, even in the event of a second national lockdown.
In October it was reported that more than half of secondary schools have pupils self-isolating as a result of Covid-19.
About six to seven per cent of state school pupils did not attend class for coronavirus-related reasons on October 22, according to the Department for Education statistics.
Approximately 26 per cent of schools, excluding those on half-term, said they had one or more pupils self-isolating due to potential contact with a Covid-19 case at school, compared with 21 per cent the week before.
Social distancing and ‘bubbles’
So-called bubbles were created so youngsters could learn and mix with fellow pupils. Large assemblies or collective worship should not include more than one group. Break and lunch times can be staggered to keep bubbles apart. Ensuring these “distinct groups do not mix” makes it quicker and easier to identify contacts if a positive coronavirus case emerges or someone has symptoms.
The bubbles can be larger, increasing to whole “year bubbles”, if teaching demands require it. Books, games and shared equipment can be used within that group, but must be cleaned if then used by another bubble.
Older children will be encouraged to avoid close contact with one another, in part because risks increase with age. Teachers are not restricted to a single bubble, but are urged to stay at the front of any classroom to reduce contact. In class, pupils must sit spaced out side by side and facing forward.
The use of the staff room by teachers is also meant to be “minimised”.
Routine testing of children’s temperatures is not encouraged after Public Health England found the process an unreliable way to test for the disease.
If a pupil or teacher has symptoms or a positive diagnosis
Schools must contact local health protection teams immediately so those in close contact with the child can be traced. Pupils in a bubble, year group and very rarely the entire school could be asked to self-isolate. A mobile testing unit could be sent to a campus.
NHS Test and Trace would be informed so family and friends can be contacted and possibly isolated.
The pupil or teacher would be quarantined for 14 days and tested. If a child with symptoms is waiting to be collected by a parent, he or she should be moved to a room to be isolated, with adult supervision if required.
Teachers who help a child with symptoms do not have to self-isolate unless they develop symptoms themselves. However, they should thoroughly wash their hands and wear PPE while with the child. The area where someone suspected of having Covid-19 has been must then be intensively cleaned.
If a parent insists a child with symptoms should attend school, the headteacher can refuse to take the pupil if they believe there is a threat to others.
However, Prof Tim Spector, who developed the Covid-19 symptom tracker app, warned that children with a runny nose do not have coronavirus and should not be getting tested, as demand for tests has soared by 150 per cent.
Prof Spector revealed that children under 18 displayed a completely different array of symptoms to adults and that if they had a cough or congestion were almost certainly suffering from the common cold that is sweeping through schools. As the testing system buckles under the strain, Prof Spector said that parents should be aware of the symptoms specifically attributed to children before they take them out of school.