Coronavirus: schools in Scotland may not reopen before the summer holidays
Schools in Scotland are to close on Friday and may not open again until after the summer holidays, Nicola Sturgeon has warned.
The First Minister said that it had been “one of the hardest decisions we have faced so far as we tackle this virus”, acknowledging that it would “massively disrupt” life, society and the economy.
Having promised to give parents advance warning, she announced on Wednesday that schools will close, saying she wanted to be as "open and transparent as possible" about that as they had about everything else.
Speaking at a press conference, Sturgeon explained: “My view is that it is now inevitable that we will close schools and nurseries and my planning assumption now is that schools will close to pupils at the end of this week and I wanted today to give parents notice of that now.
“There are two key drivers of that view. The first is the science. SAGE, our expert scientific advisers, are examining new advice literally as we speak and I expect that is likely to tell us to close schools.
“Secondly, we have the reality on the ground. As people do the right thing and follow the advice to self-isolate or to isolate as a household, more and more schools are approaching a point where they have lost too many staff to continue as normal.
“We are working closely with schools and tomorrow the Deputy First Minister will set out in a statement to parliament the arrangements we are putting in place.
“In particular, he will address key questions that I know parents, pupils and teachers will have, including what this will mean for vulnerable pupils, those receiving free school meals, because we must not cut adrift vulnerable children.
“Secondly, what this means for pupils taking their exams this year, because we will not blight the life chances of our children.
“And crucially, what this means for key workers. We must ensure that our doctors, nurses and other critical staff can still work. Lives are on the line if they cannot.”
Sturgeon said they were still working out the “fine detail” of what exactly this will mean.
She said there would “doubtless” be a lot of local flexibility required and planning with councils was likely to go on well into next week.
In some areas private nurseries and childminders could play a key role in helping key workers keep going, she said.
In other areas councils would use school buildings to reach vulnerable children.
“We will support any and every plan that helps people make this work.”
On the question of how long schools might be closed, the First Minister said: “The clearest guidance I can give now is that people should not assume that schools and nurseries will reopen after the Easter break.
“We will, of course, only keep them closed for as long as we absolutely have to, but at this stage I cannot promise they will reopen before the summer holidays.”
Sturgeon also reiterated the Scottish Government advice issued on Monday that everyone with a fever or persistent cough should stay at home for 14 days, as should anyone in their household, and everyone, particularly those over 70, pregnant women and those who have illnesses for which they get the flu jab, should cut down social contact as much as possible and stay away from crowded places.
She also confirmed the third coronavirus death in Scotland on Wednesday morning.