Edinburgh school closures: When schools will close amid coronavirus outbreak - and when they are expected to reopen

Schools across Edinburgh are to be forced to close from Friday (20 Mar) the government has announced.
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Schools, colleges and nurseries are to be closed from Friday 20 March for all pupils except those of key workers and vulnerable children, the Prime Minister has announced.

Boris Johnson said that schools across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland would close their gates to pupils on Friday “until further notice”, in an effort to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

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Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that schools and nurseries would close on Friday, and that it was unclear if they would reopen before the summer holidays.

The decision to keep schools open as normal is in stark contrast to many parts of Europe (Photo: Shutterstock)The decision to keep schools open as normal is in stark contrast to many parts of Europe (Photo: Shutterstock)
The decision to keep schools open as normal is in stark contrast to many parts of Europe (Photo: Shutterstock)

What is a key worker?

The Prime Minister announced that schools are to close for all except those of key workers and vulnerable children, with an official full list of who falls into this category due to be released today (19 Mar).

The UK government has previously suggested key workers would include NHS staff, police and supermarket delivery drivers.

The full list is expected to include workers in the following sectors:

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- National Health Service, including doctors, nurses, midwives and paramedics

- Armed forces

- Teachers and childcare staff

- Care home workers

- Social workers

- Police officers, community support, civilian staff

- Prison officer or other probation staff

- Firefighters

- Local authority planners

- Environmental health officers

- Highway Agency traffic officers

- Supermarket workers

- Delivery drivers

- Infrastructure workers, such as gas and electricity

The Prime Minister has also urged parents not to leave children in the care of grandparents or older relatives who are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus.

Who is a vulnerable child?

Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and have Education, Health and Care Plans.

Schools are not to close for such children classed as ‘vulnerable’, and the government is to provide financial support for those affected as is required.

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Any children who do not fall into these categories should remain at home with appropriate care “until further notice”.

How long will schools be closed?

The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said in Wednesday’s (18 Mar) briefing that schools will be closed until further notice, but would remain shut for at least five weeks - until 27 April at the earliest.

However, it is not unlikely that the break could last until the end of the school year and the six week summer holidays.

Why weren’t Edinburgh closed earlier?

Scottish health leaders indicated that a blanket closure of schools would need to be in place for “very many weeks to months” in order to be effective, meaning schools could be forced to close for a minimum of three months to help suppress the spread of coronavirus.

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It was feared that if closures are imposed, fatigue would soon set in and prompt calls to ease restrictions. But if this happens prematurely, the government warns it could exacerbate a peak in coronavirus cases, and overwhelm the NHS.

It was also thought to be in children’s best interest to remain at school where they will be under the supervision of professional adults, who can ensure they are following hygiene protocols, such as regular handwashing.

Removing children from school could see them end up in less supervised settings where they are at greater risk of picking up the virus, or spreading it further.

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Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “The Chief Medical Officer has said the impact of closing schools on children’s education will be substantial, but the benefit to public health would not be.

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“The Government is particularly mindful of the strain on public services like the NHS that would be caused by key workers having to stay home to look after their children as a result of school closures.”

Have any schools in Scotland closed yet – and when will they reopen?

Dunblane High School has closed to all pupils and staff after a pupil tested positive for Covid-19. Stirling Council said a deep clean of the school will take place immediately. All other schools in the local authority area will be open as normal.

Isobel Mair School and Nursery in Newton Mearns and Murroes Primary School in Angus have also been closed after the emergence of coronavirus cases linked to their communities, while Perth High School is undergoing a "deep clean" and will be closed until Thursday.

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Angus Council said Murroes Primary would be closed from Monday to Wednesday "in order to undertake a deep clean after a suspected positive case of coronavirus (Covid-19) related to the school".

Shetlands Islands Council previously said that some of its schools would be closed for all of next week.

Helen Budge, director of Children's Services, said: "During this Covid-19 pandemic, we have taken this decision, not specifically for public health, but for operational and resilience reasons."

Scotland currently has 227 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the latest figures, and one person has died after contradicting the virus.

Coronavirus: the facts

What is coronavirus?

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COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.

What caused coronavirus?

The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.

How is it spread?

As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.

What are the symptoms?

The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.

What precautions can be taken?

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Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.

Should I avoid public places?

Most people who feel well can continue to go to work, school and public places and should only stay at home and self isolate if advised by a medical professional or the coronavirus service.

What should I do if I feel unwell?

Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next.

When to call NHS 111

NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.

Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS