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Health officials have announced plans to strengthen regional test and trace powers in England by working with local authorities.

Meanwhile Scottish pupils are due to return to the classroom today as the first in the UK to begin reopening, despite some concerns about how well prepared teachers are to deal with mitigating the spread of the virus, as well as anxiety among staff who are returning.

It comes as the number of global Covid-19 cases reached the grim milestone of 20 million and the worldwide death toll passes 730,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University Worldometer tally.

He told BBC Breakfast: “On the basis of the many studies we’ve seen so far, I think parents can have confidence that it’s safe for their children to go back to school and it’s very important their children do go back to school so they can continue their education.”

Asked about masks, he said: “Well, that’s not something that’s in prospect at this point. We’ve been clear and the Department for Education have been clear that that poses a challenge to actually the ability to teach and the ability to learn in certain contexts.

“We don’t think that that’s necessary at this point, not least because we are essentially setting up different class groups or year groups as social bubbles…

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