Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 22nd December 2020.

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The First Minister:

Rightly, the operative word in the early part of Alex Rowley’s question was “could”. Among experts, there is not yet definitive consensus on whether the new strain of the virus is more likely to infect children, but that is under active exploration. The chief medical officer updated the Cabinet on that subject today, and he made it very clear that we cannot be definitive about it right now. Just this morning, I have read scientific opinion—some is pretty certain that that is the case and some that it is not. We therefore need to wait and see what consensus will emerge. We have contingency arrangements in place for blended learning.

One of the reasons why we have taken a precautionary approach to the start of the new term is the uncertainty about the new strain. We will have arrangements for blended learning for as long as it is necessary—although we hope that that will be as short a time as possible. We have already taken steps to help people in more deprived communities with online access, and in other ways. We will continue to do that, particularly if we are facing a lengthier period—although I hope that we will not—when children are not in school full time.