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No physical distancing for Scotland's school pupils if coronavirus infection rate remains low

By Gregor White

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Education Secretary John Swinney.
Education Secretary John Swinney.

Education Secretary John Swinney has said no physical distancing will be required for primary or secondary pupils as long as infection rates remain low.

Speaking at today's Scottish Government briefing Mr Swinney cited evidence from the Covid-19 Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues.

Children and young people are currently set to return to school from August 11.

The latest evidence suggests they will not be required to social distance from each other either in school or on school transport.

School staff, however, will be required to continue social distancing from each other and to wear face coverings if they are close to children or young people.

The sub-group report also says that activities such as assemblies, choirs and gym and drama classes should not be reintroduced immediately, on the basis that they pose a higher risk than normal classroom activities.

Mr Swinney also announced the creation of an £11.2 million transitional fund to help the childcare sector prepare for a full-scale reopening, along with a new workforce support fund for childminders, which opens for applications today.

He said that the "bubbles model" restricting children to small groups will not be needed if the infection rate continues to fall while a ban on "blending" – currently preventing parents from using more than one childcare setting – could also be ended, with more guidance to follow at the end of the month.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon revealed that one person had died from confirmed Covid-19 in Scotland in the past 24 hours – the first death under that measure for eight days.

She also updated advice for people in the shielding category.

From tomorrow they will be allowed to stay in any holiday accommodation and visit outdoor markets and public gardens.

Couples not living together will also be able to meet without physical distancing even if one or both of them are shielding and even if neither of them lives alone.

"We hope to able to pause the need for shielding altogether at the end of this month," she said.

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