As schools prepare to open across Scotland following the Christmas holidays new cases of Covid are surging, prompting an update from the First Minister as she recalls parliament from recess this week (Weds).
On Monday, daily coronavirus figures showed that Scotland has reached a new record high of cases on a single day as 20,217 were recorded.
The second vaccination for those aged 12 to 15 was brought forward by the Scottish Government with families being urged to get young people their second dose as early as possible in the New Year.
Drop in sessions were made available for 12 to 15-year-olds from today.
The Scottish Government has also issued advice on returning to school safely following the winter break.
What is the current Covid guidance for Scotland’s schools?
On December 17, guidance to reduce the risks of Covid in schools was updated in light of the Omicron variant rapidly spreading.
Safety mitigations that were already in place must continue to be strictly followed and some measures that were previously relaxed are being reintroduced.
Key changes include:
- Strengthened approach to minimising contacts, primarily through the reintroduction of groupings where practical
- Strengthened approach to self-isolation for household contacts of positive cases
- Tightened restrictions on school visitors
- Updated guidance on regular ventilation and CO2 monitoring
- Measures aimed at increasing the uptake of regular asymptomatic testing
- An update to guidance on school visits and trips
- A requirement for schools and local authorities to provide essential support for particular groups, including vulnerable children and young people, in the event of temporary school closures at a local level
- Staff eligibility for voluntary exemption from self-isolation under critical worker guidance
- Local authorities and schools should implement the changes as soon as they can from the start of the January term.
In the latest advice issued on returning to school safely, secondary school pupils are being advised to take at-home lateral flow tests before they return to school to limit the spread of Omicron.
Those without symptoms should do a lateral flow device (LFD) test the night before or on the morning of the return to classes following the festive break. After that, testing should be done twice weekly.
Staff in schools and early learning and childcare settings should follow the same advice.
Anyone who receives a positive LFD test result, those with symptoms, or those identified as close contacts should immediately self-isolate and book a PCR test.
The government’s education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “It is our absolute priority to keep schools safely open and minimise further disruption to learning. To achieve that, we need the help of the whole school community. Taking lateral flow tests before returning to school, and continuing to test regularly will help prevent outbreaks of the virus.
“We are grateful to schools for their continued efforts to stress the importance of asymptomatic testing. Parents of secondary pupils can also help by encouraging their children to make testing part of their weekly routine – and, importantly, to report all results online, whether positive, negative or void.
“Safety guidance for schools was updated in December in light of Omicron and it is crucial that all the mitigations are strictly followed. These include physical distancing, one-way systems and the correct use of face coverings.
“By testing regularly and following the mitigations, pupils and staff can all play their part in keeping themselves, their families and their schools safe.”
Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Gregor Smith added:“With Omicron spreading so rapidly, it is vital that we all do what we can to limit its transmission. Rapid lateral flow testing helps us to find infectious cases that might otherwise have been missed, as around one in three people with COVID-19 does not show classic symptoms.
“That’s why it is really important that secondary pupils and school and early learning and childcare staff take lateral flow tests before they return to classes and settings after the break, and that they keep testing regularly throughout term.
“They should also take LFD tests before they meet up with others outside of school or ELC settings.
“Pupils and staff who are eligible for vaccination should get their jags, and, where appropriate, boosters as soon as they can to receive greater protection from the virus.
“Those aged 12-15 are being offered second doses of the vaccine from this week and I would urge them to take up the offer. Drop-in sessions will be available for this age group from today (January 3 2022), while those who have already been given a date for their second jag can call a helpline to bring their appointment forward and get protection from the virus earlier.”