THE leader of Scottish Borders Council has issued a statement about the coronavirus lockdown, with some children returning to school next week.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced yesterday (February 16) that the planned return to classrooms for P1-3 pupils from Monday (February 22) will go ahead, as well as the reopening of pre-school settings.

Some senior-phase secondary students will also be able to return to complete essential practical coursework.

However, Ms Sturgeon – who described education as the “overriding priority” – confirmed that current coronavirus lockdown restrictions would remain in place for adults.

Regarding the First Minister’s announcement, SBC leader Shona Haslam said: "We have been working extremely hard to prepare for the return to school of P1-3s, the reopening of early learning and childcare settings, and the limited return of some senior pupils.

“We have already been in touch with parents and carers to outline some of the detail around these plans and will contact them again this week as we finalise the arrangements in line with updated Scottish Government guidance.

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“I will stress again that we will do all we can to ensure our school buildings remain safe places for both staff and young people to attend and we have all necessary risk assessments, processes and procedures in place to keep the schools COVID-free.

“It is important that parents and carers of children returning to school still comply with the lockdown restrictions in place.

“While it is completely understandable that you may have to drop your children off at school please don’t congregate with other parents at the school gates, for instance.

"Keep your distance from others and stay at home as much as possible.

“The council is also reinforcing the message to employers that just because some parents will no longer have their children at home during the day, they must still be allowed to work from home if this is possible.

“Getting young people back to school is vital and I’m hopeful that once we assess the impact of this phased return we will be in a position to get more pupils back in classrooms in the not-too-distant future.

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“While we are not going to see the easing of any general lockdown restrictions just yet I urge everyone in the Borders to continue doing all they can to help drive down the spread of the virus. Your efforts in this are very much appreciated.

“I would like to remind anyone that is in need of support or assistance at this time to contact or Community Assistance Hubs by visiting or calling 0300 100 1800.”

Dr Tim Patterson, NHS Borders’ director of public health, added: “COVID-19 is still present and therefore remains a threat to our health.

“We all still need to do everything we can to keep this virus at bay and break the chains of transmission.

“This means continuing to comply with the restrictions, work from home whenever possible, only leave the house for essential purposes and self-isolate and book a test if you have any one of the symptoms of COVID-19.

“When you are offered the COVID-19 vaccination please take it, there should be no doubt whatever that this is a very safe and highly effective vaccine.”