Scottish schools may not reopen until August, Sturgeon suggests – The Guardian,

Scottish schools may not reopen until August, Sturgeon suggests – The Guardian,

Parents in Scotland face the prospect of their children not returning to schools and nurseries until August, as the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, indicated a significant potential divergence from English plans.

Sturgeon nonetheless insisted her intention was to have UK-wide alignment of lifting lockdown restrictions “where the evidence supports it”.

Referring to reports that Boris Johnson was considering reopening primary schools for some pupils as early as 1 June , Sturgeon said: “I cannot and should not comment on whether that is appropriate for England… but I do know, looking at the evidence I have now, I could not put my hand on my heart and say that would be a safe thing to do in Scotland. ”

Instead, she told reporters at her daily media briefing that in Scotland a return to school “might not be possible at all this side of the summer holidays”, which begin at the end of June and end in August, adding : “We know that for younger children social distancing is very difficult.”

Sturgeon used the briefing, on Tuesday, to introduce the second of the Scottish government framework documents, which sets out more detailed options for relaxing lockdown restrictions , but strikes a particularly cautious tone around schooling.

She said that any return to education would have to involve a blend of at-home and in-school learning, with certain year groups going back ahead of others: in particular those transitioning to secondary school and preparing for exams. The framework document suggests that pupils could attend school part-time, in blocks of a few days or even a week at a time, to help physical distancing and enable deep cleaning of classrooms between groups.

Using recent Danish data, the document also illustrates the dangers of reopening primary and nursery schools too early. It presents modelling that suggests that, given the level of infections in Scotland, “in the ‘most likely’ scenario, full re-opening [during May] would cause a resurgence in the virus such that hospital capacity in Scotland would be overwhelmed in less than two months ”.


Sturgeon said she did not yet know what Johnson planned to announce later this week in terms of easing restrictions, and stated that “it remains my intention to have UK -wide alignment where the evidence supports it ”.

She went on to respond to critical comments from the secretary of state for Scotland, Alister Jack, who urged the Scotland government to prepare for any lifting of restrictions “in lockstep with the UK as a whole”.

Sturgeon said: “I am at a loss when I hear people saying we have to come out of lockdown in lockstep with the UK come what may, or we have to do it on a Scotland-only basis come what may . Because I think both of those are the wrong starting point. They start to sound like you are prioritizing politics or ideology over what is right for suppressing the virus and reducing the harm. ”

R, or the ‘effective reproduction number’, is a way of rating a disease’s ability to spread. It’s the average number of people on to whom one infected person will pass the virus. For an R of anything above 1, an epidemic will grow exponentially. Anything below 1 and an outbreak will fizzle out – eventually.

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the estimated R for coronavirus was between 2 and 3 – higher than the value for seasonal flu, but lower than for measles. That means each person would pass it on to between two and three people on average, before either recovering or dying, and each of those people would pass it on to a further two to three others, causing the total number of cases to snowball over time .

The reproduction number is not fixed, though. It depends on the biology of the virus; people behavior, such as social distancing; and a population’s immunity.

The document confirms it is “almost certain” that lockdown will be extended on Thursday, the next review date for the Scottish emergency regulations. Explaining that the R number – the reproduction rate – remains too high to conclude that the virus has been suppressed in Scotland, the document states: “Our current best estimate is that about , 04 people in Scotland are currently infective and R is likely to lie between 0.7 and 1.0. ”

It adds that there is some evidence that the current R number in Scotland is slightly higher than elsewhere in the UK. Sturgeon said this was likely to be because the country was at an earlier stage of the infection curve than England.

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