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Children under five to be tested for Covid-19 as education secretary promises quick access for pupils and teachers

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Children under the age of five with potential coronavirus symptoms will be able to access testing for the virus from Wednesday.

Health officials previously only carried out tests on under-fives if there was a pressing clinical need to do so but the Scottish Government has reviewed its position due to the reopening of childcare settings last week.

In a move which it is hoped will prevent households being forced to isolate unnecessarily, children will now be eligible for routine testing through drive-in regional testing centres, mobile testing units and home test kits.

Dr Gregor Smith, interim chief medical officer, told the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing: “We know that young children can become infected with Covid-19, but are unlikely to have severe symptoms.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Gregor Smith.

“At the current time, the evidence suggests that it’s very unusual for the infection to be transmitted among children, and from children to adults.”

Dr Smith said it would be important to know whether a child’s symptoms are being caused by the virus as changing restrictions increase the number of ways younger children are able to mix.

He said if a child tests positive, they will need to isolate for seven days from the onset of symptoms and household members will be asked to isolate for 14 days.

Meanwhile, education secretary John Swinney pledged pupils and teachers who develop symptoms will have quick access to testing when schools reopen.

He also revealed plans for a surveillance programme for potential infection in schools and other “vital health measures” including guidance for what should happen if coronavirus cases are discovered.

More details will be confirmed on Wednesday but Mr Swinney said schools will only be allowed to reopen fully if the Scottish Government believes the spread of coronavirus has been adequately suppressed, with a final decision to be announced on July 30.

Mr Swinney was also asked whether a recent spike in new coronavirus cases in parts of Scotland could prohibit the return of schools.

The Scottish Government believes an outbreak at the Sitel call centre in Lanarkshire was responsible, at least in part, for 22 coronavirus new cases being recorded overnight on Tuesday. It had been doing tracing work for NHS England.

Mr Swinney said: “If we find ourselves in a situation where we are not able to effectively suppress the virus, then the opening of schools is called into question.

“We’re working very, very hard on all fronts to suppress the virus and to make sure we have all of the preparations in place for the restart of schools in August.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said all new cases are being looked into and steps taken to trace contacts and break the chains of transmission.

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

She said she was “concerned” at reports of staff breaching social distancing guidelines, adding: “We all have to constantly remind ourselves of the importance of this in our own social interactions.”

The SNP leader also addressed the rise in the number of new cases in recent days, with 21 new cases reported on Saturday, 23 on Sunday, falling to seven on Monday then rising to 22 on Tuesday.

She said: “These figures are a sharp reminder of something that you’ve heard me say on a regular basis in Scotland – that the virus is still there.

“That said, a great deal of work is being done, not least through Test and Protect, to understand all of these cases, follow up contacts of them and make sure that all necessary and appropriate steps are being taken to break the chains of transmission.”

She added: “We all have a part to play in keeping this virus under control.”

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