Advice ‘may change’ on face masks for high school pupils

Nicola Sturgeon said there is a 'possibility' guidance will change amid a number of cases among students.

Advice on face coverings for school pupils, particularly in secondary schools, “may change” in future, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

She said her scientific advisers review the evidence around Covid-19 continually and “in particular” around face coverings.

When the Scottish Government laid out its plans for a full-time return of schools, it said primary pupils would not be required to wear masks, but indicated the evidence was less clear-cut for high school students.

Speaking at Friday’s coronavirus briefing, the First Minister stressed recent cases among students have been the result of community transmission, not transmission within schools.

But she acknowledged the “possibility” that the government’s guidance around face coverings for pupils could change.

Since the return of schools began ten days ago, a number of Covid-19 cases have cropped up around the country.

North-east Glasgow has seen 16 confirmed cases, some of which are linked to Bannerman High school in Baillieston, and there are three high schools in Lanarkshire with positive cases . 

An entire primary school class and their teacher are in isolation in Pollokshields, Glasgow, after a confirmed case. 

Two primary pupils at two different schools in Perth and Kinross are self-isolating after contracting the virus.

And Kingspark School in Dundee is closed after eight adults connected to the school tested positive. 

Meanwhile, Aberdeen’s Oldmachar Academy shut earlier on Friday for deep cleaning after one case was identified.

Asked by STV News about these cases and if face coverings guidance would be updated, the First Minister said: “I do think there is a possibility that our advice on that may change.

“The deputy first minister is today chairing a meeting of the education recovery group where I’m sure that will be one of the issues under discussion.

“If and when we change guidance on any aspect of how we tackle this virus we will set it out in the normal way, and as clearly as possibly.

“But I want parents and young people to be confident that the guidance that is in place right now is guidance that has been informed by scientific advice.”

But she emphasised that the vast majority of cases linked to schools did not originate in schools.

Sturgeon said: “These are cases of coronavirus that are being confirmed through Test and Protect, through the testing system, in children and young people.

“They are not cases that are being picked up in schools or identified by schools in that sense.

“This is community-acquired Covid that happens to be in people who have links to schools.”

She added: “It’s by keeping community transmission under control that we best minimise the risk of the virus in schools.”

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