School bus may be cause of primary school Covid rise

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Covid is on the rise in Highland’s primary schools and could be spread on the school buses, members of the council’s education committee have heard.

Speaking last week Dr Tim Allison, director of public health and policy for NHS Highland, said areas that have not had major outbreaks in the past appear to be feeling the brunt of cases now.

‘What’s different now to previous waves of Covid is the preponderance among young people, particularly of primary school age,’ he said.

‘That’s probably for two reasons: partly that young children are not vaccinated and secondly that lots of young children in the past have not been infected.

‘We have a lot of Covid within schools, particularly primary schools. What is perhaps surprising is the amount of Covid in any one class. We could get a class with a majority of children – the great majority in some cases – testing positive for Covid. That’s unusual.’

Dr Allison stressed there’s not one reason why Covid is on the rise in Highland primary schools but conceded that school buses could play a part.

‘There may also be some differences in the way that schools work here compared with other places. An example of that could be the large number of children who travel by small school buses, and the possibility of spread there,’ he said.

‘Young children on school buses may be asked to wear face masks.’

Dr Jenny Wares from Health Protection Scotland underlined the strong partnership working going on between health and education.

She clarified the process on school closures and isolation. She said that where there is one positive case, the school notifies public health and issues letters to all parents in that class.

Pupils do not need to test or self-isolate immediately, she said. This is a change from previous protocol. Instead, the advice is to be vigilant for symptoms.

If there are more positive cases in the same class, Public Health Scotland carries out a risk assessment. This aims to clarify whether the virus is spreading within the class.

If so, the entire class or even the entire school will be asked to isolate.