The chair of the Highland Council education committee has mooted a return to remote learning as he revealed a third of schools in the area have been impacted by coronavirus outbreaks.
John Finlayson also said vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds was “something we should be seriously looking at”, amid concerns about community transmission.
The Highland Council area is currently experiencing its highest level of Covid cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with daily figures consistently hitting three figures.
Over the week beginning August 16, NHS Highland recorded more than 1,000 cases – almost 10% of its total case count since it started keeping records.
School infections ‘having an impact’
Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Finlayson said the level of infection had particularly affected the region’s schools.
He said: “About a third of our schools across Highland are impacted at this time, but I think it’s important to remember we’ve got a huge number of schools and we’ve got schools of different sizes.
“But it is having an impact on service delivery.”
Asked what measures could be brought in to combat the high numbers, Mr Finlayson said: “I think what we had in place before the summer was working well, and I think remote learning and online learning was working very successfully across Scotland and particularly so in Highland.
“I think we’ve been leading the way in terms of remote learning, so that’s always available. I don’t think it’s a case of, as numbers rise we don’t know what to do.
“We’ve had the experience so we’ve got back-up plans in place, but again I think it’s really important that we need to keep a close eye on what the numbers are.”
He added that remote learning was a reality at the moment “where schools are struggling for staff and there’s a high number of pupils at home”.
Vaccine roll-out for 12 to 15-year-olds
The independent councillor, who represents the Isle of Skye ward, was also asked about the vaccination of children aged between 12 and 15.
Children in that age bracket are already being vaccinated if they are at an increased risk of coronavirus, and countries including the US, Canada and France are currently giving doses to everyone aged over 12.
While the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has not yet reached a conclusion on the policy, NHS England has been preparing for the possible extension of the programme to the younger age group.
Mr Finlayson said: “In Highland at the moment, we’ve had 81% of over 16-year-olds vaccinated, and I think given the news we’re hearing at the moment about the immunity of the vaccination and how it wanes, I personally think it’s something we should be seriously looking at.”