Rise in Scottish Covid cases could be linked to schools' return, says Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon said there is no room for complacency after a slight increase in coronavirus cases following the return of children to schools in Scotland.

Speaking during the Scottish Government's daily briefing on Monday, the First Minister said she could not rule out the possibility that a rise in cases over the past week was linked to the return of schooling.

She said: "It is important to note that over the past seven days we have actually seen a slight increase in cases and we will be monitoring that carefully and it does provide us with a reminder that there is still no room for complacency and that our room for manoeuvre is limited."

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S1 to S3 pupils attend Rosshall Academy as all pupils in Scotland return for some class time ahead of the Easter Holidays. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Children in P1 to P3 returned to Scotland's schools on February 22.

On Monday, they were joined by classmates in P4-P7, with secondary school pupils returning to in-class learning part time.

Ms Sturgeon said: "Can we rule out a link between schools partially reopening and a bit of an uptick in cases? No, I don't think we can.

"And that will not be because particularly of transmission within schools, but we know that when schools open there is just a little bit more movement generally as parents take children to school for example."

Also speaking during the briefing, chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith said the rise in cases was "not as great as I had wondered that we might see" and that he was "not overly concerned".

He said: "We knew that as schools went back it a always going to be the possibility that, as people could go about their lives more, there would be more contact of one sort or another and that could lead to more transmission and I think that is exactly what we are seeing being played through in the figures just now."

The latest coronavirus figures show 456 positive coronavirus tests were recorded in the past 24 hours.

No new deaths were recorded, meaning the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – remains at 7,510.

The First Minister will set out further details of the Scottish Government's planned exit from Covid-19 restrictions to MSPs on Tuesday.

She said: "I will seek to set out some details of what changes we hope to make in early April ... then what further easing we might then expect to see in late April, and then mid-May and in much less detail beyond that.

"We can't provide certainty on everything at this stage."

Some key measures she highlighted include the proposed end of the stay-at-home rule; the reopening of shopping; outdoor and later indoor hospitality; and further relaxation to meeting other households.

While the First Minister again reiterated we "can't afford to simply throw caution to the wind", Tuesday's statement will show "hope we now have for the future".

The First Minister also addressed concerns over the AstraZeneca vaccine after a number of countries, including the Netherlands and Republic of Ireland, paused their use of the jab.

She told the briefing the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency had "confirmed to us that there is no current evidence of an increase in blood clots" caused by the jab.

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