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Sturgeon confirms schools will reopen next month but gyms will remain closed for now

By Gregor White

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Nicola Sturgeon says it is "morally and educationally imperative" that schools reopen as soon as possible.

At the latest review of lockdown restrictions in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, the First Minister confirmed that schools across the country will reopen for pupils from August 11.

She said that while some local authorities may take a phased approach to welcoming back different year groups she expects all pupils to be back in the classroom by August 18 at the latest.

"It is morally and educationally imperative that we get children back to school as soon as it is safely possible to do so," she said.

She also announced a further £45 million of funding on top of £30 million already promised to support the recruitment of new teachers, expecting this to allow for a further 1400 teachers to be appointed.

A sum of £30 million on top of a previously announced £20 million funding package was also promised to help education recovery for councils, paying towards the costs of extra cleaning, school transport and "other measures absolutely vital in ensuring a safe return to schools".

However, in a speech in which she also talked about signs of a possible resurgence of Covid-19 in other countries, Ms Sturgeon added: "I must be clear that no-one can absolutely rule out a possible need for blended learning arrangements in the future, either at a national level or locally, if there is an increase in the prevalence of the virus."

As expected she confirmed that the requirement for certain categories of people to shield will be "paused" from Saturday, though she warned people in this group to be especially careful about the use of face coverings and following other hygiene measures.

Saying that it was not possible to move to stage four of the route map out of lockdown at this point, she set out a range of indicative dates for the reopening of other facilities and services, which she stressed would be dependent on how infection rates progress and further clinical advice over time.

Announcing that gyms and swimming pools will not currently be allowed to reopen until September 14, she said: "I absolutely understand and share the desire to see these open again."

However, she said clinical advice was that such facilities posed a particular risk and required a particularly cautious approach.

Ms Sturgeon said that position would be reviewed again in three weeks' time and, if possible at that point, reopening could be brought forward to the end of August.

Other facilities not currently expected to reopen until September 14 include sports stadiums (for limited numbers of spectators and subject to social distancing) and indoor soft play centres.

Non-essential call centres and offices have also been directed not to reopen until September 14 at the earliest.

From Monday, routine eyecare will be available again from community optometry premises, along with some services for drug and alcohol support groups.

From August 17 a wider range of dental care will be available and from August 24 outdoor concerts will be allowed, subject to social distancing, as well as some indoor facilities such as bingo halls plus funfairs.

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