Secondary school students will still be required to wear face coverings when schools return even if Covid vaccinations are extended to 16- and 17-year-olds, deputy first minister John Swinney has said.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is expected to make a recommendation on extending the vaccination programme “imminently”, officials have said.
It is believed that vaccinating 16 -and 17-year-olds against the virus could reduce transmission and help limit disruption to schooling.
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With schools due to start back in Scotland later in August, Mr Swinney – who is also Scotland’s Covid recovery secretary and the former education secretary – pledged “early progress” would be made on vaccinating this age group, if it is recommended.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme today, he said: “I do hope that that is the position we hear from the JCVI today, we have been pressing for that, and have made a strong case.
“Obviously, we’ll take that very forward really very swiftly to make sure we can make early progress on that.
“And, working on a four-nations basis about vaccine supplies, we will obviously make the quickest progress we possibly can do.”
His comments came as Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross today said he was “still particularly worried that young people will be wearing masks when they return to school later on this month”. Mr Ross's party last week called on the Scottish government to remove the requirement to wear face coverings, even in communal areas, before the new school year starts.
Mr Swinney said that even if the vaccination programme is extended, secondary school students will still be expected to wear face coverings, although this is due to be reviewed after six weeks.
The deputy first minister said: “We’ve set that for a six-week period and we will make early progress on the vaccination on 16- and 17-year-olds if that is the decision announced by the JCVI, but the arrangements for face coverings in schools will be maintained, as announced by the first minister.”