High Covid levels in schools leaves parents with a difficult choice - Jane Bradley

For any parent, the headlines this week revealing the extent of the spread of Covid in schools makes for unsettling reading.

Although the Scottish Government insists the number of children affected remains low, there is no denying the numbers have rocketed in recent weeks, driven, experts believe, by the Delta variant.

The number of under-15s who have recorded a positive test in Scotland is at its highest level since the pandemic began, surpassing the numbers seen at the peak of the second wave in January.

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Weekly infections in 0-14-year-olds reached 1,064 on June 7, according to data from Public Health Scotland.

Cases in school pupils have risen sharply in recent weeks.

The belief all along, to the relief of parents, has been that Covid does not affect children – as well as being unlikely to suffer serious illness. Children have also historically been less likely to transmit or spread the virus than other age groups.

However, with the Delta variant now accounting for around three quarters of all Covid cases in Scotland, many epidemiologists have suggested this is no longer true.

While data from both the UK and other countries where the Delta variant is prevalent, such as India, continues to offer the welcome news that few children suffer serious illness, there is a school of thought this variant is spreading faster among youngsters than previous versions of the virus.

There is also the concern of long Covid, both for parents of school children, who may not yet have received two doses of vaccine, and for the children themselves.

In the past, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she has a choice between opening hospitality venues or schools – she currently has opened both.

The reasoning is the relaxation of Covid restrictions has been based on hospitalisations and deaths – which are now still fairly low, due to the success of the vaccine roll-out – and the subsequent strain on the NHS.

However, this leaves parents facing the dilemma of whether to send children to school during the peak of a pandemic, resulting in a potentially detrimental effect on the family’s health – or keeping their offspring at home at a time when isolation from their peers has had a devastating effect on mental health.

I don't have any answers, but it is a problem the Scottish Government urgently needs to address.

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