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by Andrew Learmonth
19 October 2021
Scottish teenagers will need to wear masks in school as government extend Covid rules

Pupils at St Columba's High School in Gourock wear masks during a lesson

Scottish teenagers will need to wear masks in school as government extend Covid rules

Scotland’s secondary school pupils will need to wear face coverings when they return from the October break, after the Scottish Government extended Covid mitigations following advice from senior clinicians.

Staff in primary and secondary schools will also still require masks in communal areas or when moving around school buildings. 

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “In recent weeks we have seen the previous sharp decline in Covid-19 case numbers starting to level off, and that is why we have decided to adopt a cautious approach and maintain safety mitigations in school for the time being. 

“Progress with vaccinating 12-15 year olds has been remarkable and is already over 40 per cent. However, this was only rolled out a few weeks ago and allowing further time will mean that that encouraging figure rises even higher.

“This decision is based on advice from senior clinicians and takes account of the most recent data. We will continue to monitor case rates on a weekly basis, with a view to lifting restrictions at earliest possible time. 

“While I fully understand that this will be disappointing news for some young people and their parents, as has been the situation throughout, the safety of children, young people, and all education staff, remains the overriding priority. There is no room for complacency and we must all continue to remain vigilant to reduce the spread of Covid-19.”

Teachers union the EIS, which has long urged the government to keep face coverings in place, welcomed the announcement. , EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said: "The EIS has argued for great caution in any easing of school mitigations, especially in light of continuing high levels of infection and the incomplete roll out of vaccinations for pupils."

"The priority is to keep schools open but as safe as possible, so this delay from the Scottish Government, with regard to easing mitigations, is welcome and will allow, also, more time for ventilation challenges to be met ahead of winter." 

Currently, children in English schools do not have to wear masks, though their reintroduction is part of the UK Government’s back-up plan if the country’s Covid situation deteriorates significantly.

Yesterday saw another 2,194 cases of Covid-19 reported in Scotland, with a total of 44 people currently being treated in intensive care.

Across, the UK the reported number reached 49,156 on Monday, the highest reported since 17 July and a 16 per cent rise in new cases over the past week.

Epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson said case rates were rising most sharply in teenagers. He called for 12 to 15-year-olds to receive two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, rather than the one currently being offered. 

“Most other European countries are ahead of us in vaccinating teenagers and they are giving them two doses, not just one dose,” he told the BBC.

“And we know that two doses really are needed to block infection and to prevent transmission.”

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