Coronavirus in Scotland: John Swinney 'confident' return to schools has not caused Covid spike

Scotland’s return to in-person schooling is going at an “appropriate” pace, Deputy First Minister John Swinney has said.

The youngest pupils went back to school two weeks ago.
The youngest pupils went back to school two weeks ago.

Mr Swinney is “confident” that the return to primary schooling two weeks ago did not cause an increase in Covid-19 cases, he told the coronavirus briefing on Monday.

"As we look at the data just now, with P1 to P3 and early learning having been back since February 22, we can see that there doesn’t appear to be, on the face of it, any damaging effect on the reduction of the prevalence of the virus,” he said.

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He added: “We’re obviously seeing continued falls in the number of cases, despite the fact that early learning and childcare and P1 to P3 have been back.

“So I think on data we can be confident that that move has not resulted in any negative impact on virus prevalence.”

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Mr Swinney confirmed a further return to school will take place next Monday, March 15, “unless there is some data that emerges that causes us to have pause for thought”.

But he stressed: “At this stage, it doesn’t appear that that is the case.”

Asked about the differing approach to returning to schools in England and Scotland, with all pupils returning at the same time in England on Monday, Mr Swinney said he believed Scotland’s return was going at an “appropriate” pace.

Mr Swinney announced increased Covid-19 testing measures for older children who return to school, with twice-weekly lateral flow testing extended to children in S1 to S3, as well as older pupils and staff as previously planned.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Gregor Smith said the R number – the average number of people infected by each person who contracts Covid-19 – had been between 0.7 and 0.9 for the last four weeks.

He said: “We’ll get the data towards the end of this week, which will be the first measuring of R which takes into account the return of schools two weeks ago, so we will be able to see whether there has been any influence on the R number by that return at that point of time.”

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