Covid in Scotland: School closure powers to be extended

Covid-19 regulations that allow ministers to close schools are to be extended until September.

The Scottish Government also wants to make some powers permanent so they can be used to respond to a future pandemic.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said he hoped Covid measures can continue to be eased but warned continued vigilance would be crucial.

Powers put in place through the Coronavirus Act 2020, which was passed by Westminster in the early days of the pandemic, are currently due to expire in March. However, the Scottish Government has laid regulations at Holyrood to extend five of them. The rest will expire as planned.

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Two of the powers relate to the closure of schools and continuity of education. The others cover the registration of deaths, vaccination and health protection, and will also be extended until September 24.

The Scottish Government is seeking to make some of these provisions permanent through the Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) (Scotland) Bill, which has been introduced at Holyrood and would allow ministers to exercise powers in the event of another pandemic.

Mr Swinney said: “While we have seen a welcome easing of restrictions, and hope that measures can continue to be eased, it is right that we remain vigilant to protect this hard-won progress.

“For that reason we believe some of these provisions remain necessary and proportionate to mitigate the ongoing impact of Covid-19 on our public services, and any future health threats.

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“Although not required to by law, the Scottish Government has reported to Parliament on the use of these UK Act powers every two months throughout the pandemic to enable parliamentary scrutiny of their use, and will continue to do so.

“As set out in the Recovery and Reform Bill, it is our intention that the extended provisions be included in permanent legislation, subject to full parliamentary scrutiny of the Bill.”

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