On Wednesday, Humza Yousaf said in a statement that ten children up to the age of nine had been admitted to hospital last week “because of Covid” after attending soft play.
The comment angered senior clinicians, who said there was no evidence to back up the claims that children faced a heightened risk, and he has since apologised.
During a Covid briefing on Friday, Nicola Sturgeon, defending Mr Yousaf, said: “What the health secretary was trying to say is nothing is without risk – that applies to children as it does to adults.
“Nobody in the government is trying to alarm people.
"We spend every day trying to do the opposite to give people the best assessment of risk that we possibly can without alarming people.”
She said while Covid risks for children were “very low” and there is a “very, very low” number of children in hospital, the government has still decided to keep soft plays closed in level two to prevent further spread of the virus.
Ms Sturgeon said: “If you’re living in a level two area, don’t travel to level one areas to do things that you can’t do in level two areas – and that doesn’t just apply to soft play.”
National clinical director Jason Leitch said: “Don’t go to another level to do something you can’t do in your own. Don’t move from two to one to do something that we have decided at a public health perspective that you shouldn’t do at your level of incidence.”
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has said it is not concerned about a rise in numbers of children in hospital, and that parents should not be worried.
It is worth noting that some increase in the proportion of younger people affected by Covid-19 is to be expected as they are still unvaccinated while older people have more protection.
Children are also more likely to be hospitalised for other issues now, with lockdowns easing, such as broken bones from more activities, or routine operations which had been postponed. This puts them at risk of catching Covid in hospital, and these cases are also included in reporting figures.