Scotland’s National Clinical Director has said it is “not impossible” that Covid spread will lead to school closures or entire classes self-isolating.
Professor Jason Leitch said the virus should “not be trifled with” as he warned that the global pandemic was accelerating.
And he said that until a vaccine is invented, the methods of combating the virus could be compared to “whack-a-mole”.
It may be that a few kids or a few teachers or maybe a class at a time will have to be isolated. It is not impossible that a school will have to close. We hope that it will be kept to an absolute minimum.”
Professor Leitch delivered his warning at Nicola Sturgeon’s daily coronavirus briefing, where it was suggested the R-number, which measures Covid spread, has reached as high as 1.4.
The R number is an indication of the average number of people who are infected by a single positive case of the virus.
If it is below one that is an indication that spread is under control, and this was achieved during the lockdown.
But the easing of restrictions has seen the measurement rise, although Ms Sturgeon said a rising R number was not as much of a concern when the prevalence of the virus is as low as it is now.
Joining the First Minister today is Health Secretary Jeane Freeman and National Clinical Director Jason Leitch. https://t.co/4uci9gdOsv
— Scottish Government (@scotgov) September 3, 2020
Ms Sturgeon confirmed another coronavirus death but added that the patient had succumbed to the virus in mid-August and it was only now that Public Health Scotland had recorded it.
Under that particular measurement, the Scottish death toll now stands at 2,496. In total, 20,889 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Scotland, up by 101 from 20,788 the day before.
At the briefing, Professor Leitch was asked about Covid transmission in schools. The National Clinical Director replied that the “truth” was that there were positive cases involving teachers and pupils.
“It is quite difficult to be absolutely certain where those positive cases came from,” he said. Transmission in schools was to be expected. But he said the Test and Protect system aimed to stop chains of transmission.
“It may be that a few kids or a few teachers or maybe a class at a time will have to be isolated,” Professor Leitch said. “It is not impossible that a school will have to close. We hope that it will be kept to an absolute minimum.”
Now the treatment is a bit more like whack-a-mole, to try to find those outbreaks and deal with them. But the only things we have are human behaviour and test and protect. That’s all we have got until science or the virus get us out the other end of this.”
Ms Sturgeon said it was not yet known whether the onset of winter would lead to a “more pronounced” spike in cases or whether the current ebbs and flows would be maintained.
But Professor Leitch warned that the spread of the virus worldwide was getting faster.
“Let’s remember, the global pandemic is accelerating. It is getting bigger. Every weekend the WHO say we have broken a new record for the number of infections and the number of deaths. This is not something to be trifled with,” the National Clinical Director said.
He said Scotland, like the rest of Europe, had “done well” as a result of the measures taken during lockdown.
“Now the treatment is a bit more like whack-a-mole, to try to find those outbreaks and deal with them. But the only things we have are human behaviour and test and protect. That’s all we have got until science or the virus get us out the other end of this,” he added.