Parents in Leicestershire have been asked to wear masks on the school run 'with immediate effect' in letters sent out by schools late last night and this morning.
Letters have been sent home by a number of schools in the county, they say on the direction of public health bosses at Leicestershire County Council.
A county council spokesperson said: “We have requested that all parents and carers across the county wear face coverings when dropping off and picking up their children from school.
"Children’s safety is a priority and we have taken this decision to further support children’s return to education and help to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
“We would urge all parents and carers who are able to, to implement these preventative measures, in addition to washing hands frequently and social distancing. It is vital that children are in school, that schools are supported to ensure they remain a safe environment for children and we all play a part in preventing the spread of infection.”
Parents outside of Glen Hills Primary School, Glen Parva, received the letter via the school's app on this morning's school run.
One said: "I realise that we need to do everything we can to prevent the spread of the virus but we've been dropping off and picking up for weeks now and nothing has been said until today. Why now? Why not at the start of term?
"We're told that schools are safe but then we're told to wear masks, it's just more confusing messages. I know some people haven't been socially distancing outside the schools but I don't think masks will solve that."
Ashby Hill Top Primary School, in Beaumont Avenue, Ashby and Richmond Primary, in Towers Drive, Hinckley, have also both sent letters to parents requesting that they wear face coverings.
The letters all read:
"We have had notification from the director of public health and the director of children and family services requesting that face coverings should be worn by parents and carers at school pick up and drop off in Leicestershire.
"Cases are rising nationally, but there are particular areas of concern in the county, and public health officials are advising residents to be vigilant in all day-to-day activities.
"It has been difficult for some parents to maintain social distancing at school gates, and this further measure will help prevent the spread of coronavirus."
The letter also reminded that the government's advice about keeping a safe distance from others, only getting a test if you have Covid-19 symptoms, washing your hands and wearing a mask where required remains in place.
The letter ended by saying:
"Parents and carers are asked to do everything they can to protect their families and friends.
"Thank you for your support."
The county's director of public health, Mike Sandys, yesterday said that he does not see schools as a 'hotbed' of infection, but he does have concerns about the 'outside the box' side of schools, including parents gathering outside of gates or going on playdates after pick up time.
New guidance about masks was not mentioned, but Mr Sandys, did say: "There are a number of schools where there have been cases, I can only think of one where it's been more than a single case.
"The good news is that it's not schools, the bad news is that it is the community."
He added: "Heads have been really sensible about this. They have worked with PHE to risk assess who needs to be sent home, there is obviously a balance to be struck between the importance of childrens' education and protecting the public."
More than 40 schools across the city and county have confirmed cases of coronavirus, prompting thousands of students to self-isolate.