As headlines break today (28th November) of a third case of the new COVID variant Omicron being identified in the UK, questions are being raised about the new measures that are being brought in by the government.  

From the Monday 29th November, all secondary school students (from Y7 to Y13) in England shall be required to wear a face covering in communal areas to reduce the spreading of the virus. More countries from southern Africa, from where the variant is believed to have originated, are being put on the red list of travel as well as face coverings being mandatory on public transport and shops. With an atmosphere in the air like that of winter 2020 which saw the return of a nationwide lockdown, how safe do students feel with the Omicron variant? 

I asked some year 12 students from Woodford County what they thought of the news.  

‘I think it will bring back some previous restrictions, but I don’t feel less safe because of face masks and testing’ said Scarlett H, a year 12 student. ‘If people follow the guidelines hopefully, we can move forward without a harsh lockdown while still considering the new variant.’ 

One sentiment that was shared amongst the year 12 students that I asked, was avoiding lockdown. 

 ‘I think the variant is going to cause more restrictions, which I’m not excited for because it feels like we might go into another lockdown - and that is something I’m dreading’ Ana R stated in response to a question on what she thinks will change due to the new variant. It seems particularly important to students to avoid having to return to online learning, even for a brief period of time. There is a consensus, however, on welcoming restrictions due to the variant as Katie T summarises, 

 ‘It will bring more restrictions because the government have to be aware that cases are increasing and identify problem areas to deal with them. I do not feel unsafe because I’ve got a mask on and have been double vaccinated. Covid has been around for a while, and just because this is a different variant, it doesn’t mean it should be feared more.’  

Although it is important to remain vigilant and follow COVID rules and guidelines – especially with the new Omicron variant – students do not seem to be as anxious as last year in the rising COVID cases. Having said that, it is essential to get the second dose of the vaccine, which has been recently made available to 16–17-year-olds, for hospitalisations due to the coronavirus to decrease and, hopefully, for life without any restrictions to be a reasonable possibility again.