Nicola Sturgeon blasted for ‘damaging’ school policy as she tries to one up Boris Johnson

Nicola Sturgeon: ‘Safest’ place is ‘your own household’ at Christmas

Nicola Sturgeon was quick to one up Boris Johnson introducing tough Level Four measures. The First Minister introduced the toughest level of restrictions for Scotland on Wednesday, which sees Scots barred from indoor socialising and non-essential businesses forced to close their doors. However, despite putting Scotland into Level Four restrictions, Ms Sturgeon has allowed schools to remain open.

Scottish teaching union EIS has urged Ms Sturgeon to rethink allowing schools to remain open in Level Four areas.

Larry Flanagan, the EIS General Secretary said: “Our members want to be in schools working with pupils, but they also want pupils and staff to be safe.

“The Scottish Government’s rejection of remote or blended learning for schools in areas with high rates of infection has increased the level of risk for pupils, teachers and their families.

“It is time for the Scottish Government to rethink this damaging policy, with the danger of increasing rates of community infection throughout the winter months.”

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Ms Sturgeon has dismissed Mr Flanagan’s concerns, citing Public health Scotland (PHS) data which show around 620 children aged between two and 17 are diagnosed with coronavirus every week in Scotland – a rate of 70 per 100,000 children.

Despite teachers represented by EIS saying social distancing is impossible in schools, Ms Sturgeon also said PHS experts had found “no evidence of any difference in the risk of hospitalisation for teachers when compared to the general population”.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said all four national leaders had agreed the UK will continue to allow the easing of restrictions over the week of Christmas.

Mr Johnson said yesterday from Downing Street “a shorter Christmas is going to be a safer Christmas” while explaining the eased restrictions will go ahead.

The Prime Minister, relaying the results of a crisis talk with Ms Sturgeon, Northern Irish First Minister Arlene Foster and Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, said the decision to keep the eased restrictions was unanimous.

He added: “When we say three households can meet on five days, I want to stress, these are maximums, not targets to aim for, and it’s always going to be safest to minimise the number of people you meet.

“If that means you’re visiting others, we’re asking you, for the five days beforehand, as early as Friday, to reduce the number of people you’re in contact with to the lowest possible.”

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While Mr Johnson’s claimed the decision to keep the Christmas bubble policy was unanimous, Ms Sturgeon and Mr Drakeford introduced Level Four restrictions for Scotland and Wales just minutes after the Prime Minister’s briefing.

Ms Sturgeon said yesterday the Scottish Government, while still allowing up to three households to mix from December 23 to December 27, has introduced the toughest possible measures in all 11 local council areas to curb rising coronavirus cases and deaths.

She said: “If you haven’t made plans to form a bubble, please don’t.

“If you are still swithering, please decide against. And if you have made plans but think they are not really essential, please think about postponing until later in the year.

“The reality is that this Christmas simply can’t be normal. But we have every reason to hope that next year’s will be much more normal.”

The Scottish First Minister stopped short of advising against the three household plan, accepting it would not be fair or realistic at this stage to remove that flexibility.

Mr Drakeford however said the Welsh Government would be advising only two households should meet ahead of the bubble period.

Dr Andrew Lee, global health expert from Sheffield University, said to BBC Scotland the national leaders “are all trying to avoid being The Grinch”, but warned “the numbers aren’t looking good”.

He added: “If we have super-spreading over Christmas, we will have a bumper number of infections come January.”

Yesterday saw the UK record a further 25,161 cases and 612 deaths, with Scotland seeing 689 cases and 38 deaths.

In total, the UK has seen 1,913,277 cases and 65,520 deaths, with Scotland accounting for 108,428 cases and 4,135 deaths.

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