Highland Council has renewed its advice to parents as around 60 local schools have been hit by coronavirus outbreaks – and the region recorded almost 10% of its total case count for the entire pandemic in a single week.
The NHS Highland health board has said more than 1,000 cases had been recorded between August 16 and 22, and added that the increase was “expected to continue”.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 11,398 cases have been reported in the health board area, giving it the lowest total case rate per 100,000 population of any on the Scottish mainland.
Dr Jenny Wares, a consultant in public health medicine at NHS Highland, said there was no single situation causing the numbers to increase to such an extent, and that the region was experiencing “sustained” community transmission.
She said: “Covid-19 is spreading very rapidly and the impact on families, local schools and businesses remains significant.
“Whilst Covid-19 is circulating at such high levels, we would advise you try to minimise your contact with others as much as possible to limit further spread within our communities.”
She added that it was important people are aware of potential Covid symptoms, which include not only a continuous cough, a fever and a loss of taste or smell, but also headaches, sore muscles and joints, tiredness and diarrhoea and vomiting.
What schools are affected?
Highland Council says about a third of all its schools are currently affected by cases of Covid.
However, secondary schools in Grantown, Kingussie, Culloden and Lochaber currently have a “significant” number of year groups self-isolating.
Meanwhile, Aviemore, Pennyland and the Gaelic school in Lochaber are some of the primary schools affected.
There have been partial closures at Aviemore and Pennyland with a one-day closure at Alvie Primary required.
Those who have to self-isolate are due to continue learning at home.
John Finlayson, Highland Council’s education committee chairman, said: “The exponential increase in cases, while to be expected due to the recent relaxation of measures, is having a significant impact on our education settings.
“We urge that communities remain vigilant and everyone takes the necessary precautions and does what they can to slow the spread of the virus.”
Education chief urges parents and carers to take care
Highland Council education chief Nicky Grant said parents, carers and pupils should take care to follow advice due to the particular impact on schools.
She said: “The Highland Council continues to work in partnership with NHS Highland’s Health Protection to manage a number of Covid-19 outbreaks in school settings.
“It is vital that parents/carers and pupils take protective measures set out for schools and follow the advice from the Health Protection Team on receiving any letters about local cases.
“Online learning or home learning material will be available for those who are isolating but, otherwise, remain well.”