Hundreds of thousands of children and young people across England are set to resume their classes at schools and colleges from Tuesday after months of lockdown imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus since March.
The Department for Education said pupils will return to school environments with a "system of controls" in place to keep all pupils, teachers and staff safe by minimising direct contacts and maintaining social distancing wherever possible.
Face coverings will be mandatory in communal areas and corridors at schools and colleges within areas of the country deemed at high risk of Covid-19 infections.
"For many, today marks the first day of a new school year, with thousands of children set to walk through their school gates again as schools across the country begin to reopen for full-time education for all pupils," said UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.
"I do not underestimate how challenging the last few months have been but I do know how important it is for children to be back in school, not only for their education but for their development and wellbeing too," the minister said.
"But it is down to the sheer hard work of so many teachers and school staff that from today pupils will be able to learn in their classrooms together again. It has not been easy for parents nor schools, but we could not have got to this point without your support and I cannot say thank you enough for this," he said.
The DfE emphasised that the new school term follows the backing for a full return from the chief medical officers across the four nations of the UK in their recent consensus statement, highlighting that the health risk posed by Covid-19 to children is extremely low and noting the significant risk to young people's wellbeing if they are not back in school.
A 'British Medical Journal' study also said the risk of severe illness due to Covid for children was "vanishingly small".
Last week, the National Association of Head Teachers published survey findings that highlighted 97 per cent of schools plan to welcome all pupils full-time from the start of the autumn term and will have the range of recommended safety measures in place.
The remaining 3 per cent outlined that they will phase students back or use transition periods to reopen more widely.
Meanwhile, Chinese students on Tuesday began a full return to regular classes following two weeks without new cases of local transmission in the country.
About 75% of students had already returned to school and the remainder will return beginning from Tuesday.
Reports said students had their temperatures checked on arrival but rules on social distancing and mask wearing varied depending on the region.
Çhina's National Health Commission reported 10 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, all of them brought from outside the country.
French pupils head back to their classes
Millions of French children starting going back to school Tuesday despite a recent rise in virus infections, in a nationwide experiment aimed at bridging inequalities and reviving the economy.
"The virus is still there, and you have to protect yourself," President Emmanuel Macron said in an Instagram video aimed at France's more than 12 million schoolchildren on their first day back.
He spoke masked. Masks are required throughout the school day for all students 11 and over, and all teachers and school staff.
Masks are also mandatory starting Tuesday in all French workplaces, as the government encourages parents to return to the job while trying to keep infections under control.
France reported 3,082 new coronavirus cases Monday, down from recent days but still higher than European neighbors and well above the few hundred daily cases reported in May and June, before summer vacations sent infections rising again. France has reported more than 30,600 deaths related to the virus.