Coronavirus: Schools to return in Scotland but country remains in phase three of lockdown

30 July 2020, 12:37 | Updated: 30 July 2020, 15:06

Schools in Scotland will reopen from 11 August, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed. 

All pupils are expected to return to the classroom full-time by 18 August.

Announcing changes to Scotland's coronavirus lockdown restrictions, Ms Sturgeon said people who have been asked to shield will no longer be required to from 1 August.

But the first minister said the country will not be moving out of phase three of its lockdown, warning that "the virus has not gone away".

Ms Sturgeon said the virus is now at "very low levels" in Scotland, with estimates last week suggesting just 300 people were still infectious and the R number remaining below the crucial number of one.

She also confirmed no coronavirus patients had died in the country for the past fortnight.

Despite the "substantial" progress, the first minister said the time was not right to move to the fourth and final phase of easing lockdown restrictions.

"A move to phase four would require us to be satisfied that the virus is no longer considered a significant threat to public health," she said.

"Unfortunately that is far from the case."

In phase four of the lockdown easing, all workplaces would reopen, mass gatherings could resume and public transport could run a full service.

Hygiene and some social distancing measures would still need to remain in place.

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Ms Sturgeon said it is a "moral and educational imperative" for children to return to school as soon as possible, as students have now been away from the classroom for almost five months.

She acknowledged that some schools may opt for a "phased return", but said all pupils should be at school full-time by 18 August "at the latest".

Previously, the Scottish government had proposed a blended model where students would be taught in school part-time and also learn at home on return after the summer break.

Announcing there will be a pause on shielding advice for extremely vulnerable people, Ms Sturgeon said she was "deeply grateful" for the "patience and sacrifice" of shielders.

She said the guidance would likely be an "enormous relief to many" but suspected some would feel "anxious" about the changes.

The first minister insisted the advice would change if there was a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

She also gave indicative dates for the return of some activities.

Live outdoor events with physical distancing and organised outdoor contact sports could resume from 24 August.

On the same date, driving lessons could resume and some indoor facilities such as bingo halls could reopen.

Non-essential offices are expected to remain closed until at least 14 September.