Children are being ordered to wear face coverings throughout the school day

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The new Government rule comes as speculation grows that the isolation period for youngsters with Covid could be cut to five days instead of seven.

Geoff Barton, of the Association of School and College Leaders, said heads would probably discuss the issue with Department for Education officials in the coming weeks.

He said: “I think it’s a completely legitimate question, given that we know the disruption isolation causes.”

Ministers recently cut the Covid isolation period from 10 to seven days if people test negative on a lateral flow on day six and seven of their quarantine.

MPs now want the Government to slash the isolation period to five days for asymptomatic children to minimise their time at home.

Tory Robert Halfon, who chairs the education select committee, said: “The Government should seriously consider applying this to children so they can get back to learning again.”

The United States announced last week that the self-isolation period for people showing no symptoms would be cut from 10 to five days.

Experts there say there is growing evidence that the virus is most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptoms appear.

On Sunday, France cut the isolation period for vaccinated people to five days with a negative test.

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Experts have urged calm following reports of a highly mutated new Covid variant discovered in France.

The UK Health Security Agency confirmed there are “a small number of cases” of B.1.640.2 in the UK.

Only 20 cases of the strain, thought to have come from Cameroon, have been noted globally so far.

Dr Thomas Peacock of Imperial College London said there is “zero sign currently it’s taking off”.

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