Items and actions
The Chair (Craig Robertson - Interim Deputy Director, COVID Response, Advanced Learning and Science) welcomed all to the meeting.
All agreed the minutes for the previous meeting (7 June 2022) are accurate.
Action: Minutes to be published online.
Dr Shifa Sarica (Public Health Scotland) presented the latest national data and Nabeil Salama (COVID-19 Analysis Division) updated the group on modelling.
The following discussion points were raised:
- members sought clarification on SG funding for mental health councillors. Action: SG officials to follow up on this
- SG referred to the comments made by the National Clinical Director, Professor Leitch, suggesting it is unlikely that there will be a reintroduction of restrictions or measures in response to rising case numbers
- CLD commented on the evolution of the virus, specifically whether we could rely on subsequent variants being more or less severe as time goes on
- CLD requested a statistical breakdown of the data in order to make sense of how the virus affects the most clinically vulnerable
- members highlighted the lack of strategic impetus on planning for an approach to dealing with a new variant or pandemic. Professor Bauld reassured the group that there is a wealth of work being undertaken by the Scottish Government
- suggestion that access to free LFD test kits would provide some reassurance to staff and students at the start of the new term. Officials stressed that the issue is out of SG’s control
- concerns were raised about the lack of sector-specific guidance. SG emphasised that the Guiding Principles have replaced the need for any detailed prescriptive guidance
Derek Grieve of the Operational Vaccines Division gave a presentation on the Scottish Government’s vaccine policy and autumn/winter vaccination strategy.
The following points were raised:
- there will be an autumn vaccination campaign, which is awaiting final JCVI advice before it is finalised and shared
- interim advice is that the campaign will offer vaccines to over 65’s and those who are vulnerable
- it is unlikely that most students will be eligible for the additional dose
- potential for variant vaccines to be approved and recommended for use by the MHRA
- plans are being developed to deal with a potential surge and the need to accelerate the programme
- students and staff are still eligible to access vaccines if they have not had any or all of their vaccines to date. This offer includes international students and is likely to remain in place until at least spring
- members were asked to continue to encourage all those eligible to get vaccinated and boosted
- some institutions offered the use of their venues for the autumn campaign. SG advised members to contact their local health board to register their interest
Will Quinn, Scottish Government, opened a discussion on the Guiding Principles and how these are being applied in practice.
The following points were raised:
- the principles are intended to remain in place for the new academic year to demonstrate how HE settings are working proactively and taking responsibility for COVID mitigations at a local level
- this retention of the Guiding Principles is consistent with the approach taken in early learning and schools, where specific guidance remains in place
- SG acknowledged that local decisions are already in place, and more have been put in place for the new academic year
- preparations for the new academic year should consider the public health context, and in line with the Guiding Principles, encourage the use of mitigations
- participants were urged to keep in touch with their local public health team, to stay informed and ready to respond to any emerging issues and concerns
- COVID-19 messaging was also discussed. Unions raised concerns about the absence of urgency around COVID-19 and the varied application of the guiding principles. Action: Minister to write to CRG members
Any Other Business (AOB)
- CLD members noted the need to address issues around funding for organisations that want to improve/update their ventilation systems
- action: colleagues from the COVID Ready Society Division will be invited to join the next meeting to update the group on their work on COVID-19 adaptations
- officials offered to discuss any issues that had not been covered outside of the meeting
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