- By Hazel Shearing
- Education Correspondent
Leaked WhatsApp messages suggest that the UK’s chief medical officer was unclear about the scientific evidence behind the move.
A government spokesman said: “We have always said there are lessons to be learned from the pandemic.”
They added: “We are committed to learning from the findings of the Covid inquiry, which will play an important role in informing the Government’s planning and preparations for the future.”
From September 2020 guidance has changed to require face coverings in secondary schools in England in areas under local lockdown.
The notification made them mandatory in corridors and communal areas. It was later used for classrooms where space was not possible.
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has asked for advice on face masks in schools, the Telegraph reported.
In a WhatsApp group chat on the morning of August 25, 2020, the newspaper said, he asked whether the government should do a “U-turn” on its stance.
Lee Cain, then Downing Street’s director of communications, is said to have sent a link to a BBC article announcing that face coverings in corridors and communal areas will be compulsory in high schools in Scotland starting earlier in the school year.
He asked if it was worth fighting because Scotland had taken action, the paper said.
According to leaked reports, Simon Case, who led the civil service’s Covid efforts, is said to have warned that “nervous parents will panic” if Scotland does not follow its example.
Sir Chris Witty, England’s chief medical officer, is reported to have said that “there are no strong arguments against something like corridors, and there are no strong arguments”, adding that it is “not worth arguing about”.
The Telegraph story comes after other WhatsApp messages leaked to the newspaper suggested former health secretary Matt Hancock had dismissed expert advice on Covid tests for people going to care homes in the UK at the start of the pandemic – something he has denied.
The BBC has not seen or independently verified WhatsApp messages or the context in which they were sent.
The Telegraph has obtained more than 100,000 messages sent between Mr Hancock and other ministers and officials at the height of the pandemic.
The texts were sent to the newspaper by Isabelle Oakeshott, a journalist who criticized the lockdowns. Ms Oakeshott was given copies of the texts when Mr Hancock helped her write her Pandemic Diaries.
A spokesman for Mr Johnson said it was “not appropriate to comment” on the leaks and that the UK’s independent public inquiry into the pandemic “provides due process”.