Ministers are not currently considering a blanket closure of schools in Scotland, despite rising numbers of Omicron cases, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister confirmed that her government was “not discussing the closure on a national basis of schools”.
A primary school in Paisley has already been forced to close for a week due to a suspected outbreak of the new Omicron variant of Covid, with some class groups at Todholm Primary now being required to self-isolate.
Scotland now has 99 cases of the new variant – which Ms Sturgeon warned “may be significantly more transmissible than anything before”.
She spoke out after being pressed on the issue by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross.
He said that while shutting down schools “may be necessary in extreme circumstances” there had been an agreement between parties earlier in the pandemic that “children’s education must come first and closing schools should only ever be a last resort”.
He called on Ms Sturgeon to confirm if this was still the Government’s position and for her to “say that no plans for school closures on a national basis have been discussed by her cabinet”.
The First Minister told him: “It is absolutely the case that protecting the education of children remains a top priority. We are not discussing the closure on a national basis of schools.
“Everything that can be done to avoid that will be done by this Government, and that is a really important principle that will drive everything we do.”
But she added achieving that “means doing some other things that Douglas Ross has opposed time and again” – such as requiring staff and pupils in secondary schools to wear face coverings.
Ms Sturgeon stressed the need for “sensible mitigations in schools”, saying that while “nobody likes” pupils having to wear them, doing so is “essential”.
The First Minister added that measures to curb the virus in the community were also necessary, telling MSPs that “most of the things we have done to try to achieve that have been opposed by the Conservatives”.
The Tories have opposed measures introduced by the Scottish Government, such as vaccine passports, but Ms Sturgeon said ministers must “continue to take sensible actions, proportionate actions”.
She stated: “We are again at a really serious juncture of this pandemic and it demands serious government, serious decisions, and certainly doesn’t demand opportunistic opposition.”