Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children's Issues minutes: 22 February 2022
- Learning Directorate
- Part of
- Coronavirus in Scotland
Minutes for the meeting of the group on 22 February 2022.
Attendees and apologies
Advisory group members
- Prof Linda Bauld (Chair)
- Catherine Agnew
- Prof Marion Bain
- Prof Chris Chapman
- Gayle Gorman
- Gaenor Hardy
- Dona Milne
- Prof Devi Sridhar
- Prof Ian Rivers
- Prof Paul Flowers
- Joanna MacDonald, Deputy Chief Social Work Advisor, attended on behalf of Iona Colvin
Public Health Scotland
Dr Colin Sumpter
- Prof Brigid Daniel
- Iona Colvin
- Prof Julie Fitzpatrick
- Dr Eileen Scott
- Dr Diane Stockton
- Victoria Ayre
- Victoria Bruce
- Andrew Drought
- Daniel Kleinberg
- Audrey MacDougall
- Fiona McDiarmid
- Gary Sutton
- Sam Anson
- Judith Tracey
Items and actions
The Chair welcomed members to the meeting and provided a brief update on actions from the previous meeting. The Chair explained that she had to leave the meeting early and that Marion Bain would take over the Chair for the last 30 minutes.
Minute of meeting on 8 February
The minute was confirmed as an accurate record of the meeting.
Face coverings evidence paper
In the interests of transparency, the sub-group had agreed that it would be useful to publish some of the material considered by the sub-group in relation to face coverings. The sub-group considered the draft evidence, and members agreed to send any final comments to the Secretariat by the end of the week.
Action: comemnts on the draft summary of evidence to go to the Secretariat by close on Friday 25 February.
Review of evidence
The sub-group considered the latest data on the state of the epidemic. The overall 7-day rate of positive cases had decreased for 2 to 17 year olds, with the largest decrease being observed among 5 to 11 year olds. The R rate in Scotland was around one. Vaccine uptake falls with age - 83.6% of 16 to 17 year olds in Scotland have received at least one dose, with 58.3% having received two, and 70.2% of 12 to 15 year olds have received at least one dose, with 40.9% having received two. Whereas only 17.6% of eligible 5 to 12 year olds have received the first dose of the vaccine.
The overall rate of hospital admissions in 2 to 17 year olds decreased in the week to 20 February, with a decrease in the hospitalisation rate being seen in 2 to 4 and 5 to 11 year olds, and 12 to 17 year olds seeing a slight increase. It was reported that the BA.2 variant of Omicron continues to be more contagious than the BA.1 variant, though it does not seem to be any more severe.
Evidence summary on wider harms
The sub-group discussed the draft evidence paper on the wider consequences of COVID 19 for children and young people, which provided an illustration of the educational, social, developmental, and wellbeing harms experienced by young people.
In discussion, the following points were made:
- the paper should include evidence on the direct health harms from COVID-19, as well as the wider harms, as this provides important context. It should also provide detail on the state of the epidemic in Scotland and the wider UK, as has been the case in previous etvidence papers produced by the sub-group
- there should also be a section on the impact on school and ELC staff
- school closures also had wider impacts on the community, including a lack of facilities for community and youth groups with a consequential increase in isolation and loneliness
The paper had originally been intended to focus solely on the wider harms to children and young people. Subsequent to the discussion, it was agreed that the sub-group should prepare a more detailed evidence paper along similar lines to those published in both 2020 and 2021, but with a large section of the paper devoted to the wider harms.
Action: the evidence paper to be broadened out to include more detail on e.g. the state of the epidemic, and the impact on staff and the wider community.
Baseline mitigations in schools and ELC settings
The sub-group discussed which routine protective measures would remain in place when the COVID-19 threat level is assessed as being low. The sub-group emphasised the need take to careful account of the evolving risk environment in schools and the wider community, and to ensure that only those measures that are necessary and proportionate to ensure the safety of schools and ELC settings are retained in the longer term. The sub-group will carry out a full review of the remaining measures on 8 March.
The sub-group considered the aims of the asymptomatic testing programme in education settings. There continued to be a range of views regarding any potential changes to asymptomatic testing and isolation policy. In discussion the following points were made:
- at this point in the pandemic, when vaccination rates are high and the current variant is less severe, the gains from asymptomatic testing in low-risk workplace settings were likely to be fewer than the costs
- consideration would need to be given to the potential impact on clinically extremely vulnerable children and young people, and whether there should be a differentiated approach for special schools
Members emphasised the need for clear messaging that zero-tolerance of symptoms remains an important public health measure, and that staff and pupils should not go to school if they have even mild symptoms.
Date of next meeting
The next meeting will be held on 8 March.
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