Coronavirus (COVID 19): Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues minutes: 21 July 2020

Minutes from the fifth meeting of the COVID-19 Advisory Group held on Tuesday 21 July 2020.

Items and actions

1. The sub-group discussed draft advice on Physical Distancing in Early Learning and Childcare (ELC).  The discussion covered: the importance of children being taught effective hand hygiene; the need to recognise that advice may change when more evidence becomes available; a more active promotion of high quality outdoor learning; and greater clarity on recommended maximum cohort sizes within ELC settings.  It was agreed that face coverings would not normally be required for adults.  More generally, in relation to face-coverings, it was agreed that the shields/visors should not be recommended. 

2. The sub-group considered a paper on lessons for Scotland looking at evidence from schools in Australia, South Korea and Israel.  It was noted that the WHO had stated that, globally, no outbreak of the disease could be attributed to schools.  Some studies have indicated that senior secondary-aged pupils have a transmission rate that is similar to adults.  It was agreed that as restrictions are relaxed, if the level of infection increases, consideration should be given to closing higher-risk venues before closing schools.  In view of the range of new evidence coming forward, it was agreed that the subgroup would continue to monitor international evidence.

3. The sub-group considered further evidence on monitoring, surveillance and testing.  It was recognised that there was naturally some anxiety among school staff about returning to school and that these concerns should be taken into account when the policy guidance is developed.  The sub-group acknowledged that a balance was needed between the harms of not attending school and the current low level of risk involved in doing so. 

4. The sub-group discussed early proposals for enhanced surveillance in schools, and was supportive of what was being proposed.  This led to a discussion around the proposed monitoring data, and the importance of being clear about the purpose, and how such data would be communicated and used.   It was also agreed that the sub-group should continue to provide advice to policy teams and others as monitoring and surveillance measures impacting on schools are more fully developed. 

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