SCHOOLS in Helensburgh and Lomond will be ready for pupils to return to the classroom as safely as possible next week, health chiefs have stated.

Dr Rebecca Helliwell, associate medical director with the area’s health and social care partnership (HSCP), gave an update on measures to guard against a spread of Covid-19 when pupils across Argyll and Bute return to class, nearly five months after schools were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

During the meeting of the HSCP’s integration joint board (IJB) on Wednesday, August 5, Argyll and Bute Council leader Aileen Morton asked what will happen if a pupil is found to have a cough.

Following an in-service day for staff on August 11, with pupils returning from August 12 – though the council says some schools may have to have a phased return for pupils.

Councillor Morton asked: “Some pupils may have a cough on a regular basis. From a public health perspective, at what point is it acceptable to say that they can be at school?”

Dr Helliwell responded: “The thing with schools is a big headache. We have been engaging with public health and education about it.

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“The bottom line is that kids with issues that could be Covid-19-related should not be going to school, but I hear what you say.

"Not all coughs are because of Covid-19, and that is where the test comes in.

“Getting it speedily delivered is key, because if somebody in the class has a cough, we don’t want to send the whole class home.

“A positive test might result in different outcomes.

"The prevalence in communities is very low, but as kids mix more, you will see more coughs, not all of which will be Covid-19.

“We are meeting public health this week and next week, and hopefully there will be more answers.”

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Dr Nicola Schinaia, Argyll and Bute associate director of public health, added: “The prevalence is very low in our population and schools are ready to introduce social distancing measures.

“Test and Protect is also active, so we have everything we can do in place to minimise any risk.”

Argyll and Bute Council has published a list of the top Q&As for parents and carers surrounding the return to school – click here to read it.

Dr Helliwell also gave an update on preparations for winter, as well as testing measures as lockdown continues to be eased in Scotland.

She said: “We have dealt a lot with ensuring tourists are well catered for as lockdown is reduced and communities are exposed to people from different places.

“We look as if we have managed to engineer a system of getting UK Government testing kits available to islands, so people can be tested under that scheme.

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“We also must ensure we have continued access to critical care, which may be difficult in the future, and as has been said, test and protect is working well for patients so far.

“We are working very closely with colleagues in the North Highlands and using social media to communicate more, recognising these are really challenging and anxious times.

“We are planning for winter, looking at flu jabs being given in different ways, and have Covid centres set up in most of our communities.

"We are also looking at how we assess people with different illnesses.

“Covid-19 is not all in the past, as has already been said.

"However, we continue to plan for more of the challenges, especially with the usual pressures that winter brings.”

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