THOUSANDS of kids will be told to wear masks when they return to school today after half-term as authorities keep a watchful eye on winter cases.
Ministers have been considering the plans amid rocketing Covid rates in teens.
The move to bring back face coverings in assemblies and hallways comes as officials examine measures to curb infection rates without damaging the economy.
Local public health directors can currently tell individual schools in England to put their kids in masks if infection rates are high in their area.
Schools in the East of England will be urged to reimpose mask wearing and ramp up testing to halt the increase in Covid cases in the region, the Daily Mail reports.
The "targeted local action" will affect more than 1.5million people living in Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and Suffolk.
The plans include asking secondary schools to make masks mandatory in communal areas, and the return of routine rapid testing for students.
The measures, unveiled by the Health Secretary Agency, will be in place for five weeks in a bid to stem the rise in infections among teenagers.
Extra vaccination and testing teams will also be deployed to the region to tackle the spread of the virus.
And similar measures could reportedly be rolled out across other parts of the country if there is a spike in cases.
Average daily cases and hospital admissions in the East of England have doubled over the last six weeks, driven by high rates among schoolchildren.
Face masks will also be reintroduced to schools in South Tyneside, Chronicle Live reports.
Temporary measures are being brought back into force in the area, including masks for staff and secondary age pupils in classrooms and communal areas.
Health bosses have also urged kids to take a rapid test before they return to the classroom today.
A React Covid study of infections in England estimates the R rate was 1.18 among 17-year-olds and under while it stood at 0.81 among 18 to 54-year-olds.
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: "I am calling on all children to help themselves and each other by getting tested before going back to the classroom so that we can stop the infection in its tracks and keep as many children in the classroom as possible, continuing their education and developing their futures."
'WALL OF DEFENCE'
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi added: "As we start the countdown to Christmas, testing regularly and getting vaccinated is the best thing we can all do to protect education and make sure we can enjoy the best of the season – whether that’s the school nativity or the family gathering over the holidays.
"That’s why I want to encourage every young person in secondary school or college to take a test before you return to the classroom.
"We have come so far in our fight against this virus, and now every single test and every single jab puts another brick in our wall of defence."
Health teams are reportedly set to visit more than 800 schools across the UK this week to offer more children the jab.
Students are also be urged to get jabbed at walk-in centres amid the slow vaccine rollout among youngsters.
It comes as the UK recorded the lowest number of Covid cases in a week – with the number of first dose vaccinations nearing 50million.
The latest government figures on Sunday show 38,009 cases have been recorded in the last 24 hours, while another 74 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid.
Some 6,981 Covid patients have been admitted to hospital in the last seven days, marking a 5.8 per cent increase.
And the number of Covid cases recorded in the UK since the pandemic began passed nine million on Saturday.
The total number of infections currently stands at 9,057,629.
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