Schools in Scotland: Devi Sridhar warns Covid lockdown may need to last ‘until at least Easter’ if pupils are allowed back to the classroom

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A leading member of Nicola Sturgeon’s coronavirus advisory group has said if pupils in Scotland are to return to the classroom, then lockdown restrictions in other areas “will need to remain in place until at least Easter”.

Professor Devi Sridhar, an expert in public health at Edinburgh University, also warned that urgent action is needed to get children back to normality – otherwise “we're going to face a lost generation”.

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Most pupils in Scotland are currently taking part in online learning, with only those deemed vulnerable and the children of key workers attending school.

At the last review on January 19, the Scottish Government said the earliest date schools could possibly open for pupils who are not vulnerable or children of key workers was being pushed back to at least mid-February.

However, on Tuesday, National Clinical Director Professor Jason Leitch said his recommendation to ministers is that younger children should be allowed to return to the classroom, although he is reluctant to say older pupils – who will be working towards qualifications – can do the same.

Prof Leitch added that, although it looks as though some pupils will return, schools will not go back to normal.

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Speaking to the BBC on Tuesday morning, Prof Sridhar said if younger pupils are to be allowed to return to school, then parents will need to restrict their contacts.

The return of some school pupils in Scotland could be announced by Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday.The return of some school pupils in Scotland could be announced by Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday.
The return of some school pupils in Scotland could be announced by Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday.

She said: “If we open schools, then we likely have to keep restrictions in other areas at least until Easter – until we see if there is any impact with a new variant on schools going back.

“We also need to tell parents not to mix, otherwise schools will have to shut again, because one of the issues is when schools go back parents have more time, and they end up mixing more.”

Prof Sridhar added that the well-being of children must take priority, warning “we're going to face a lost generation if we don't put children first and figure out how we get them back to some kind of normality."

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