Secondary school pupils in Scotland may have to wear face coverings in corridors and communal areas, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The first minister said Scotland’s Education Secretary John Swinney was in the final stages of consulting with teachers and local authorities over the possible new guidance.
She said a new rule “would go beyond” World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance after the body advised over the weekend that children aged 12 and above should wear face coverings.
Ms Sturgeon said: “The education secretary is working on a recommendation for staff and pupils in secondary schools to wear face coverings when they are moving around in corridors and communal areas.
“We’re consulting on this specific measure because first of all, mixing is more likely in corridors and communal areas, increasing the chances for transmission.
“Secondly, close contact in these areas is more likely and voices could be raised resulting in greater chances for aerosol transmission.
“And finally, there is often less scope for effective ventilation in these areas.”
The announcement came after 17 members of staff and two pupils tested positive for coronavirus at a school in Dundee, less than two weeks after Scottish schools returned.
Three “community contacts” linked to Kingspark School had also tested positive for COVID-19, NHS Tayside said.
The school, which caters for children aged five to 18 with additional support needs, has been closed since last Wednesday due to the outbreak and pupils have been told to self-isolate for 14 days.
The WHO’s guidance says children over the age of 12 should wear masks to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, while children aged five or under should not be required to use them.
For children aged six to 11, it sets out several factors that determine whether they should wear masks including whether there is widespread transmission in the area, if there is adequate adult supervision and the potential impact of wearing a mask on learning.
On Monday, a Downing Street spokesman said there were no plans to review guidance on face coverings in schools in England due to concerns they could obstruct communication.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said pupils’ “life chances” will suffer if they do not return to their classrooms for the start of the new academic year.
It follows advice from the UK’s four chief medical officers which said “very few, if any” children would come to long-term harm from the virus by attending school, while there was a “certainty” of harm from not attending.
Dr Jenny Harries, England’s deputy chief medical officer, told Sky News on Monday the risk of catching seasonal flu or being involved in a road accident is “higher” for children going to school than contracting coronavirus.
James Gillespie’s High School in Edinburgh welcomed youngsters back to classes on Monday after reportedly deciding masks should be used when moving along indoor corridors between classrooms.
Face masks are also being introduced at schools in the Highland Council area – including Millburn Academy in Inverness and Grantown Grammar School, in Grantown.
But a campaign group has urged the Scottish government and councils to rule out such measures, claiming it would cause children more harm than good.
Us for Them Scotland has around 9,500 members, with organiser Jo Bisset questioning the scientific evidence for wearing face coverings in school.
She said: “Everyone appreciates the health and safety of pupils and teachers has to be a priority but forcing children to wear masks when there’s little, if any, scientific evidence to support such a move could be hugely damaging.”
She claimed it could negatively affect pupils with autism, hearing impairments and asthma and raised concerns over mask provision for those from unstable households.