Coronavirus: 'No plan' to close schools next week

Schools Scottish health chief explains why schools are 'not necessarily' going to close

Tes Reporter

Coronavirus: 'No plan' to close schools next week

A Scottish health chief has played down suggestions that the coronavirus outbreak will force all schools to close next week.

National clinical director Jason Leitch said that school closures are "not necessarily going to happen".

Professor Leitch, who is responsible for planning in the Scottish NHS, explained that the knock-on effect of having to find childcare if pupils are not in school, as well as their apparently lower contagion risk, are two key reasons for not shutting schools at this stage.

Also today: Coronavirus case closes school in Scotland

Coronavirus and exams: 'Prepare as normal' for Scottish exams

Coronavirus and school closures: Schools could close until the summer

Asked today about rumours that schools are planning to shut, Mr Leitch said on the BBC Good Morning Scotland radio show: "I absolutely guarantee there is no plan right now, and no substantive rumours, that we're going to close schools next week.

"Children aren't getting sick in the main around the world. All the numbers we have so far are that children are not getting seriously ill.

"They are being infected by the virus; the virus is no respecter, unfortunately, of age or gender or ethnicity or borders, but they are not getting symptoms.

"You spread more when you have symptoms, so the children are less likely to spread those symptoms."

Lanark Grammar School has temporarily closed for deep cleaning after a case of the virus was confirmed there.

Yesterday, first minister Nicola Sturgeon said that, while schools were not closing yet, if they did so it could be until the summer. Meanwhile, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has told teachers and students to "prepare as normal" for exams, which start on 27 April.

As of 2pm on Thursday 12 March, 60 people in Scotland had tested positive for the virus.

Following the Scottish government's decision to cancel gatherings of more than 500 people from Monday, Professor Leitch said he was "comfortable" about the Rangers-Celtic football match in Glasgow going ahead on Sunday. Later in the morning, however, all professional football in Scotland was suspended until further notice

On possible action to delay the spread of Covid-19, Professor Leitch said "draconian measures" such as closing borders, stopping travel and halting public transport would risk creating further problems in the future.

Professor Leitch said: "The best science available says that if you allow the growth at a certain level – and you can't control 60 million people [in the UK] exactly – we will control the rising of the peak and we won't create a second peak.

"We fear that in other parts of the world that's what they're doing.

"If you release those measures, the virus is still there and you have very few people who are now immune to the virus because you have very few people who have caught the virus.

"You're just delaying the inevitable."

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