John Swinney reminds parents not to increase contact with others after children return to school
John Swinney has reminded parents not to increase contact with other adults when some children return to school and childcare next week.
He said parents who have been working from home while children were out of school should continue to do so and employers had a legal obligation to support that.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s lunchtime briefing, Swinney said people must not use this return as an “opportunity to meet up with other parents or friends”.
The Deputy First Minister said: “As a general rule, if you find that you’re meeting up with more people than you were before once children have returned to school, then think about why that is.
“All of us should be minimising our social contacts right now.
“In addition, when you’re out of the house, at the school gates, for example, just remember to follow the FACTS advice.
“For all of us, that advice is perhaps more important now than ever before.”
He said parents should remember to physically distance when walking to school and dropping off children at school and nursery.
Swinney added: “I want to emphasise that the basic rule at the moment remains the same: right now, all of us should be staying at home.
“In any level four area – that, of course, includes all of mainland Scotland – you must only leave the house for essential purposes.
“You cannot meet up with other households indoors, and if you meet with someone outdoors, you can only meet one other person from one other household.”
Swinney was asked about what consideration had been given to evidence from countries such as Canada that had already begun more face-to-face teaching that there was some in-school transmission of new variants and whether there should be a more blended approach and physical distancing, even for younger pupils.
The Deputy First Minister said they “looked very carefully” at what was taking place in other countries but the advice of their expert advisory group was that information suggested the risk of the virus being transmitted by younger children was “very, very low”.
As a consequence, they had judged that it was “appropriate and safe” for children in those age groups to return to school and childcare.
“Now, by contrast, when it comes to the older age group of pupils, for example, the senior phase pupils, only a very limited number of those pupils will be returning to schools for very limited tasks that are relevant to the pursuit of qualifications, and in all of those circumstances physical distancing will have to be observed within the limited period in which those pupils are in schools.”
Swinney said they were taking decisions based on the advice that was available about the likelihood of transmission and putting in place the maximum protections they possibly could to ensure everyone was safe.
This was backed up by the chief medical officer, Gregor Smith.
Smith said the risk of transmission of the new variants between children in younger age groups “appear to be broadly similar to the wild, native virus that we had become used to”.
“There is no additional risk in these age groups,” he said.
He said they wanted to monitor this and be cautious, which was why they had taken a very limited approach to the return of children to school, but the evidence base was developing “fairly firmly”.
The vaccine rollout continues in Scotland with 1,386,152 have had their first dose of the vaccine as of this morning, an increase of 31,186 since yesterday
Swinney said first doses had now been offered to all over-70s, all care home residents, all frontline health and care workers and all people with a serious clinical vulnerability, and 74 per cent of 65-69-year-olds have also now received a first dose.
He said he expected to receive new recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on next priorities for vaccine rollout “reasonably soon”, probably “within the next week or so”.