Scotland’s schools and nurseries will remain closed for at least another month as the country’s battle against the coronavirus pandemic continues.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs that a safe return to education facilities will not be possible on February 1 as initially hoped.
Further detail of when pupils can return to schools and nurseries is expected to be available on February 2, with facilities expected to stay closed to all except the children of key workers and those from vulnerable families until at least the middle of next month.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Our reluctant judgement at this stage is that community transmission is too high, and is likely to remain so for the next period, to allow a safe return to school on February 1.
“The cabinet therefore decided today that except for vulnerable and key worker children, school and nursery premises will remain closed until mid-February.
“We will review the situation again on February 2 and I hope we can set out then a firmer timetable for getting children back to school.
“I can say this today. If it is at all possible, as I hope it will be, to begin even a phased return to school learning in mid-February we will do that.
“But I have to be straight with families and say it is too early to be sure about whether and to what extent this would be possible.
“However I will update parliament again as soon as we have completed the review, taking advice from our clinical advisers, from February 2.
It comes as the Scottish cabinet decided to continue with the current strict lockdown measures in place across Scotland.
The only change made on Tuesday was moving Barra and Vatersay from level three to level four lockdown measures in response to an outbreak.
Ms Sturgeon said there is “cautious optimism” in the country’s fight against the deadly disease with lockdown restrictions “now beginning to have an impact”
She said case numbers in the country have “stabilised and even declined” – though pressure on NHS Scotland is still “very severe”.
It comes after a further 1,165 Covid-19 cases were recorded in Scotland in the past day, along with 74 deaths. Some 1,989 people are in the country’s hospitals battling the virus, 150 of them in intensive care.
Scotland entered a second lockdown on January 4 in response to the rapid spread of a new strain of coronavirus.
Since then case number and Covid-19 deaths in Scotland surged to their highest-ever levels.
The measures put in place in early January were the strictest since the measures taken in response to the initial outbreak, in spring 2020.
Schools have been closed to all but a handful of pupils, with strict travel measures and a legally enforceable “stay at home” rule put in place.