The Scottish Government has made it clear that decisions in relation to the relaxation of restrictions imposed as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19) will be, first and foremost, tested against the scientific evidence and public health advice that is available. This paper sets out what advice we have considered, and the evidence we are drawing on. It focuses on the evidence and advice specifically relating to transmission and exposure, and does not include discussion of wider public health advice in relation to, for example, health inequalities or behaviours, or on educational impacts of school closures.
That evidence is being built internationally, across the UK and within Scotland. The principle sources of evidence and advice are the Scottish COVID-19 Advisory Group, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), the Children’s Task and Finish Working Group (a sub-group of SAGE), Public Health Scotland and lessons from international experience. It is for SAGE and its Children’s Task and Finish Working Group to publish their papers and advice. Detailed discussion of those is not in scope of this paper.
The WHO set out three broad areas to consider when looking at reopening of schools, alongside consideration of other harms from continued closure:
- current understanding about COVID-19 transmission and severity in children
- local situation and epidemiology of COVID-19 where the school(s) are located
- school setting and ability to maintain COVID-19 prevention and control measures
This paper aims to be transparent on those aspects which are not well understood, and make clear that in some cases the science does not provide us with a definitive view on the situation or the best course of action. The Scottish Government also considers a range of other advice when making decisions, including stakeholder views, and engagement with the people of Scotland.
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