Positive Covid tests in Edinburgh school prompt pupils to stay at home

Attendances plummet by 33 per cent
Pupils are urged to continue going to school unless advised otherwisePupils are urged to continue going to school unless advised otherwise
Pupils are urged to continue going to school unless advised otherwise

CITY schools where pupils or staff have tested positive for Covid have seen attendances dip by a third when the cases become known.

A total of nine cases have been confirmed in eight schools - Granton, Dalry, Castleview, Gracemount and St. Joseph’s primary schools and Currie, James Gillespie’s and Gracemount high schools.

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In a briefing to councillors, chief education officer Andy Gray said there had been “almost full attendance” when the schools went back last month following the coronavirus lockdown.

But he said where cases had been confirmed, one in three pupils then stayed off.

He wrote: “Each time a positive case is identified and communicated to a school community, the attendance of pupils has dropped by approximately 33 per cent in the initial two days but is picking up to normal levels thereafter.”

He said the council’s response to each case was in line with advice from Health Protection Lothian.

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“Each case is assessed, contacts are considered by Health Protection Lothian and schools are contacting relevant staff and parents as soon as they are advised.”

Mr Gray praised “the responsibility and seriousness with which children, young people and staff are dealing with the additional measures to maintain a safe place to work and learn”.

And he said: “Schools are continuing to ensure that groups are kept apart as much as possible, face coverings are used appropriately and regular hygiene measures are in place. Staff, meanwhile, are maintaining two metre social distancing. These measures are being kept under constant review.”

The council says unless parents are contacted they should continue to send their children to school and it is safe to do so.

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Tory education spokesman Callum Laidlaw said: “Some people are understandably very nervous about Covid and there is perhaps a greater job to be done about the measures the council has put in place in schools.”

Green education spokesman Steve Burgess said: “It is not surprising that there is a dramatic drop-off immediately after a case of Covid-19 is revealed. So it is important for confidence there are systems in place for rapid testing, routine tests for staff and effective tracing systems. And it certainly re-inforces the Scottish Government advice this week that young people need to take the virus just as seriously as anyone else.”

A council spokesman said when there was a positive test result involving a school, parents and staff were sent letters to reassure them and they were updated throughout the process.

“This includes messages from NHS Lothian and the school that if people have not been informed they are a close contact and need to self-isolate then they should attend school as normal and that it is safe to do so. Further advice on Covid-19 symptoms and what steps should be taken if anyone is feeling unwell are also given out.”

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At the daily coronavirus briefing, Nicola Sturgeon said the average number of daily positive cases has trebled from three weeks ago and the country was “at a very dangerous point”.

She said there had been 159 new Covid-19 cases across Scotland in the previous 24 hours.

And she said the increase in cases “could continue and translate into serious illness and death if we are not very careful”.

The UK Government has announced a ban in England on social gatherings of more than six people indoors or outdoors, except for schools, workplaces or Covid-secure weddings, funerals and organised team sports.

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Boris Johnson said the measures - which start on Monday - would “keep our economy going, keep our schools open, and keep this virus under control”.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We can’t rule out the need to make changes to the numbers of people allowed to gather together, like those announced in England. We are carefully reviewing existing guidance and regulation, as well as considering what new steps may be necessary to keep Covid under control.”

Ms Sturgeon said new cases of Covid-19 were being reported in all mainland health board areas and the new cases included 63 in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 29 in Lothian, 19 in Lanarkshire and 10 in Forth Valley.

The average number of new cases over the past seven days increased to 155 a day, up from 52 three weeks ago.

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Meanwhile, Professor Linda Bauld, professor of public health at Edinburgh University, told MSPs she feared a growing potential for public unrest over coronavirus lockdown measures.

The Scottish Government plans to extend the emergency Coronavirus legislation, which expires at the end of the month, covering measures like the need to wear face masks in shops, as well as limiting the number of people who can gather indoors.

Appearing before Holyrood’s Covid-19 committee, Professor Bauld said: “I am very, very, very concerned about the next few months and potential unrest.

“We’ve seen it globally around the world, groups that are spreading disinformation but also just gathering, as we’ve already seen in Scotland, to express distaste and distrust in the messaging and the guidance that has been given.

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“We’re going to have to be very careful to keep on top of that because history shows that followng pandemics, and there is research on this, there is social unrest and we need to be cognisant of that.”

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